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Fire and heat related injuries such as burns can cause lifelong scars or even death, and are unfortunately very common, especially with toddlers. The following tips will help you prevent most major burns in your home. 

1. Set the temperature on your hot water heater at l20° F. Most hot water heaters come preset from the factory at approximately 140° F. That is hot enough to cause a second or even third-degree burn in children after just one to two seconds of contact. At 120° F a burn is unlikely, even though this water is hot enough to do your dishes, laundry, and take a shower. 

2. Have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers on every floor located near potential fires zones such as the stove or basement boiler. More than one smoke detector may be needed on a floor if areas are separated by closed doors or partitions. Follow the manufacturer's mounting instructions carefully and remember that the average smoke detector battery only lasts six months, so check them every time your clocks need to be adjusted for daylight savings time.

3. Fire drills should be a regular practice if there are children at home who can participate. Children should be aware of the procedures to follow in the event of a fire. Among these procedures are the "stop, drop and roll" technique, crawling on their hands and knees to escape a fire, and multiple escape routes. Chain or rope ladders should be available in the event someone becomes trapped on an upper floor. Fire department numbers should be clearly posted by all phones in case 911 is not available. 

4. The oven and stove top are common sites of serious household burns, so be careful when using the stove top, since splattering liquids can burn a child even several feet away. This is especially true of hot grease. Use back burners whenever possible, and make sure pot handles do not extend over the side of the stove top where a toddler might grab them and pull hot contents down onto their face and chest. Boiling water and other hot contents on a table can also be pulled down by toddlers when they grab the tablecloth for support; this can cause serious “splash” burns, unfortunately usually on their faces.

5. Liquids heated in a microwave can become extremely hot even though the container may be cool to the touch. Liquids can also heat unevenly in a microwave, so that testing the top layer is not sufficient. Always stir a liquid that has been microwaved and test it carefully before giving it to a child. Be especially careful with formula heated in a microwave. Infant bottles are notorious for uneven heating causing severe mouth and lip burns. Never heat a bottle in a microwave with the nipple. This might cause an explosion since the pressure cannot be released as the liquid heats. Also, the nipples may heat up and can also cause severe burns when placed in the infant's mouth. 

6. As we enter the winter season, be especially careful with space heaters, kerosene heaters, wood burning stoves, and fireplaces. Toddlers are very curious about these items, and they love to explore by touching. Needless to say, severe hand and body burns can result. In addition, tipping over a kerosene heater or space heater can instantly start a major fire. Make sure all such heaters are out of reach of your toddlers and that they are set up to prevent tipping. Be aware of placing these heaters too near to objects which might be pulled down onto them, causing a fire including curtains, newspapers, and books.

Although these suggestions may seem like common sense, it is surprising how many children are seriously burned or even killed each year from these types of accidents. Since it is nearly impossible to watch your child every moment, the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is very applicable when it comes to burn safety.


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