Fires, scalds and burns

Fires, scalds and burns pose some of the greatest risks to children. The most severe injuries are associated with heat-related accidents and younger children have a higher percentage of burns and scalds


Domestic fires pose one of the greatest risks to children. Children playing with matches and lighters frequently start house fires.


  • Keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children
  • Always use a fireguard BS 8423: 2010 and secure it to the wall
  • Extinguish and dispose of cigarettes properly
  • Have an escape route planned, and practise it, in case of fire
  • Fit a smoke alarm which complies with BS EN 14604 2005 and check it regularly
  • The incidence of burns and scalds in young children is much higher than that of older children and adults.

Scalds and burns

Many of the children who go to accident and emergency with a burn or a scald are referred on for further hospital treatment. Recovery may be long and painful and many are left with permanent scarring.

Hot drinks cause most scalds to children under the age of five. A child’s skin is much more sensitive than an adult’s and a hot drink can still scald a child 15 minutes after being made. Young children are also very vulnerable to sunburn.

Hot bath water is responsible for the highest number of fatal and severe scalding injuries among young children. Around 500 children, mainly under fives, are admitted to hospital and a further 2000 attend A and E departments every year as a result of bath water scalds.

Children can also suffer burns after contact with open fires, a cooker, irons, curling tongs and hair straighteners, cigarettes, matches, cigarette lighters and many other hot surfaces.


  • Never hold a hot drink and a child at the same time
  • Never leave young children alone in the bathroom
  • Put hot drinks out of reach and away from the edges of tables and worktops
  • Encourage the use of a coiled flex or a cordless kettle
  • Keep small children out of the kitchen whenever possible
  • Run the domestic hot water system at 46°C or fit a thermostatic mixing valve to taps
  • When running a bath turn the cold water on first and always test the water temperature with your elbow before letting a child get into the bath or shower
  • Always use rear hotplates and turn the panhandles away from the front of the cooker
  • Keep hot irons, curling tongs and hair straighteners out of reach even when cooling down.