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FOR RELEASE: January 29, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Burn Awareness Week, February 1-7, Safety Tips

February 1- 7 has been designated as Burn Awareness Week all across the country. Each year thousands of Americans are burned by various means. Hot water burns are among the leading causes of burns in America, according to officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Injury Prevention Service. Take the time to check items in your home that could cause serious burns from hot water. For example:

  • Lower the thermostat setting of your water heater to 120-125 degrees F. A maximum temperature of 125 degrees F. should provide plenty of hot water for normal household activities. Check with your utility company for directions to adjust an electric water heater.

NOTE: At 130 degrees, a serious burn can occur in 30 seconds. At 140 degrees, only 5 seconds are required. The time may be reduced by 50 percent or more for children under age 5 and some adults over age 65.

  • After the thermostat is turned down, check the temperature 24 hours later by running the hot water to make sure the temperature is low enough to be safe.
  • Consider installing pressure balancing/ thermostatically controlled shower/tub valves which reduce the water temperature to 115 degrees F. or less. These valves can be attached to the bathtub fixtures, installed in the wall at the bathtub, or connected at the water heater.

When small children are in the home additional safety steps are encouraged to prevent scald injuries.

  • Always know where your children are and what they are doing. Continuous and adequate supervision of young children is critically important.
  • Put a small slide-bolt latch on the upper half of the outside of the bathroom door. This will prevent young children from entering the bathroom without supervision, and help control other risks, such as drowning in the tub, chemical burns, etc.
  • Generally the water in a child's bath should not be hotter than 100 degrees F.
  • Run cold water into the tub first, then add hot water until it reaches a safe temperature. This will prevent a scald burn if the child should fall into the tub while it is being filled.
  • Before placing a child into the bathtub, check the temperature of the water by moving your hand through the water for a few seconds. If the water feels hot, it is too hot for the child.
  • Toys in the bathtub may establish the tub and bathroom as a play area. Give the child a washcloth instead of a toy.
  • Place children at the other end of the bathtub away from the faucets.

Another common household activity, microwave cooking, can be dangerous if not done properly. In the fast-paced world we live in today, microwave cooking is an everyday activity for many children.

Burns from microwave-prepared foods occur for many reasons. One reason is that foods are heated to very high temperatures and sometimes unevenly. Another reason is that foods are often not stirred well or temperature-tested before eaten. Some commonly microwaved foods such as pastas, sauces or fats retain heat and stick to the skin causing deeper burns. The following safety tips can help you avoid the damaging effects of burns from microwaves:

  • Stir microwave-heated food after heating to mix the hot and cool areas.
  • Test temperature and make sure the heated noodles, pasta dishes or “pocket” foods have cooled to a safe temperature before serving, especially to children.
  • While cooling hot foods, place hot foods at a safe distance from children...away from counter and edges of table where children could spill or pull them over.
  • Make sure your child is old enough and tall enough to safely prepare foods in a microwave oven.
  • Supervise children while they are preparing foods in a microwave oven.
  • Microwave ovens mounted above the counter can be a major burn hazard. Hot foods or liquids are frequently spilled on hands, chest or torso while removing them from these microwave ovens.

With these safety tips, children and adults alike can be safe from the harmful effects of scald injuries. For more information, fact sheets and safety checklists about burn prevention, contact Miriam McGaugh, M.S. OSDH Injury Prevention Service, at 800-522-0204.


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