It can take less than one second for a contact burn to occur. Contact burns can be minor, but they can also result in serious injury. In 2018, approximately 70,000 people were cared for in emergency departments for burns. A third of those individuals were children under the age of 5.

In honor of Burn Awareness Week, here are some of our top tips to prevent contact burns in your home.

  1. Make a “Child-Free” zone around your oven, grill, fireplace, or stove that is about 3 feet in size. Young children are curious by nature and it can be impossible to supervise them 24/7 especially when you are also focused on prepping dinner. The “Child-free” zone limits the risk of them touching a hot surface accidentally or pulling a hot object, like a pot or pan, onto themselves.
  2. Unplug irons, hair straighteners/curlers, and other appliances that heat up when you are done using them. Have a safe place for these appliances to cool down that is away from flammable material and unlikely to be in your way. Accidentally touching hot appliances are a common way to get contact burns. If you have children or pets in the home, be sure to make sure the cords of the appliances are neatly stored out of reach.
  3. While it is tempting to walk around barefoot all summer, it is important to wear shoes on pavement or sand. Hot surfaces can burn the bottom of your feet, and you may not notice until the skin is damaged or even blistered. This is why it is also important to keep pets off hot sidewalks and roads and walk them on grass when possible.
  4. When cooking, assume all surfaces are hot. Use oven mitts or hot pads for reaching in and out of the oven, adjusting anything on the grill, or grabbing the handle of a pot or pan. Additionally, it is best to not hold or carry a child while cooking due to the higher risk of contact with hot surfaces.
  5. When using a heating pad, be careful not to use it for an extended period of time or to keep it in the same place. Heating pads can reach 120 degrees and when left against the skin for a few hours can result in first to second degree burns. This commonly occurs when someone falls asleep while using the heating pad. Older individuals can have thinner skin or conditions that limit their ability to feel heat and are at higher risk for burns from a heating pad.

If a burn occurs, you want to treat it right away. Cool the burned area by placing it under cool (Not cold!) or lukewarm running water for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not apply ice, butter, or lotion to the burn. If the burn covers a large area or looks bad, seek medical care or call 911.

Abby Beerman is an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.

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