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Fire Safety and Burns--Identifying High-Risk Situations

Children are at increased risk for serious fire and burn injuries and death because they have thinner skin than adults, resulting in more serious burns at lower temperatures. Most burns and fire injuries and deaths occur in the home. By knowing the high-risk situations for fires and burns and taking steps to make your home safer, you can help protect your child from fire and burn injuries or death.


Most common injury type

Risk factors

< 5 Years


Playing with matches, cigarette lighters, fires in fireplaces, barbecue pits, and trash fires.



Kitchen injury from tipping scalding liquids.

Bathtub scalds often associated with lack of supervision or child abuse. Greatest number of pediatric burn patients are infants and toddlers younger than 3 years of age burned by scalding liquids.

5 to 10 Years


Male children are at an increased risk often due to fire play and risk-taking behaviors.



Female children are at increased risk, with most burns occurring in the kitchen or bathroom.



Injury associated with male peer-group activities involving gasoline, or other flammable products.



Occurs most often in male adolescents involved in dare-type behaviors, such as climbing utility poles or antennas. In rural areas, burns may be caused by moving irrigation pipes that touch an electrical source.

High-risk situations can include:

  • Failing to install and maintain working smoke alarms.

  • Leaving children unattended in the home, especially in the kitchen or bathroom.

  • Providing easy access to matches, gasoline, lighters, or other flammable products.

  • Failing to establish an escape plan.

  • Working with hot foods or liquids around toddlers and infants.

  • Failing to check the temperature of tap water and/or not lowering the water heater thermostat to 120° F (49° C) or below.

  • Allowing children to handle fireworks.

  • Exposing electrical outlets and cords.

  • Allowing children near kerosene lamps, space heaters, or outside grills.

  • Leaving supplemental heating equipment on while adults and children are asleep.

Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 3/28/2013
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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