Electrical Burns:

Children can suffer an electrical burn if they come in contact with alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) current from any source of electricity. Electrical current can severely damage a child’s skin and also pass through the body and damage tissues and organs. Sources of electrical burns include:

  • Plugs and outlets
  • Batteries
  • Household Appliances
  • Power Lines
  • Lightning

A child may show immediate symptoms of an electrical burn such as reddish or blackish skin, but burns that cause tissue or organ damage may cause symptoms such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Muscle stiffness and pain

Prevent an Electrical Burn

There are many simple things parents or caregivers can do to make sure a child’s home is safe from burn danger:

  • Make sure all of your unused electric outlets have socket covers.
  • We all have more TVs and cable boxes and other fun items these days, so parents should make extra sure that these cords are out of a child’s reach. Don’t allow children to play with the cords or bite them. Retail outlets now sell a variety of locks and guards that shorten cords and mask plug outlets.
  • Cords don’t last forever, so be sure to replace them if they are frayed or damaged. Also replace cords that are hot to the touch.
  • Using one big power strip? Be sure to encase it with a strip cover and keep it out of site if possible.
  • Keep electronics and appliances out of a child’s reach. That includes curling irons, stoves, radiators, and regular irons for clothes.
  • Parents should always supervise children when they play with electric toys. Make sure all electric toys have an Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) safety label.
  • Parents should teach children never to put anything inside an electrical outlet.
  • Are lightning and thunder in your area? Teach your children to avoid touching any electrical device during a storm.
  • Even adults often forget that light bulbs can be hot! Keep bedside lamps out of reach until children are old enough to understand that bulbs can burn. Parents can simply remove light bulbs from the sockets when it’s time for bed. Need to change a bulb? Make sure your child watches you change the bulb with a towel or long after it’s cooled down.
  • Time for dinner? Be sure to use the back burners on the stove if possible.
  • Be careful of hot dinner plates. Many retailers now sell safe plates with rubberized handles and built-in electrical safeguards.
  • Don’t use electric blankets or heating pads without close supervision. Be sure to remember to turn off the blanket or pad before bed because they can seriously burn a child’s skin. An electric blanket can also be an electrocution risk if a child wets the bed or if someone spills water.
  • Turn off radiators or keep its temperature low in a child’s room. You can childproof your radiator with a variety of guards or do-it-yourself kits from retailers.

Water Burns

Kitchen sinks, bathtubs, stovetops, and even hot drinks – there are lots of places in a home where hot water can burn a child. But parents and caregivers can safeguard their homes by keeping a few things in mind:

  • Remember just how hot coffee, tea, and hot chocolate can be! And don’t forget soup and sauce. Keep these liquids away from children—remember not to perch that mug or pot where it can spill or a child can pull it down.
  • Teach your children to stay away from the kitchen while you are cooking. Set up “no-zones” throughout the house where water might be hot.
  • Don’t carry your child while cooking, and don’t leave food unattended while cooking on the stove.
  • Reduce your hot water thermostat to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Bath water should be around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Always check water with your fingers before bathing your child.
  • Keep hot drinks far away while you are nursing a child.
  • The old standby is still the best: Turn pothandles away while cooking to avoid a child accidentally pulling hot or boiling water down on themselves.

By the Way:

  • Keep matches and lighters high and out of reach.
  • Keep kids away from barbecues and exhaust pipes on cars, lawnmowers as well as hot slides or other equipment on playgrounds.
  • Avoid fireworks. If you are going to use them, make sure the adults are lighting them off far enough away from children.

If Your Child has a Minor Burn Injury

  • If your child suffers a first- or second-degree burn, the first thing to do is run cool water over the burn. Don’t use ice directly on the wound.
  • Do not apply ointments or any home remedies you may have heard about such as butter. Be sure to talk to a doctor or trained professional and apply antibacterial ointment only after pain has subsided.
  • Use a clean bandage or cloth to cover the burn.
  • Don’t break any blisters that form.
  • If your child suffers a severe burn, call 911 immediately.
Children's Health Services
Pediatric Burn Home Burn Safety