Scalds and burns

Children are at high risk for burns because their skin is thinner than an adult's skin. A child's skin burns four times more quickly and deeply than an adult's, at the same temperature.



Scalds are the types of burn injuries that most often send children to hospital. Scalds are burns from hot water or liquids. Young children under the age of five suffer 83 per cent of all scald injuries requiring hospital admission.

  • Keep your child away from hot liquids
    • Spilled tea, coffee, soup and hot tap water are the leading causes of this painful and potentially serious injury.
  • Reduce the hot water temperature in your home
    • Hot tap water could seriously burn your child. Tap water causes nearly a third of scald burns requiring hospitalization, Many Canadian homes have hot water that is 60 C (140 F). This can cause a third-degree burn on your child's skin in just one second. 
    • How to check your hot water temperature at home
      • Use a thermometer that can show high temperatures, such as a meat or candy thermometer.
      • Turn on the hot water tap in your bathroom. Let it run for two minutes. If you have used a lot of hot water in the past hour, wait two hours before you do this test.
      • Fill a cup with the hot water. Put the thermometer in the cup.
      • Look at the temperature. If it is higher than 49 C (120 F), you need to lower your water temperature.
      • If you have found that your hot water is too hot, here is what to do to lower your hot water temperature. See Lowering hot water temperature
  • Keep your child safely out of the way when you are cooking
    • In a matter of seconds, hot liquids could fall on your child and burn them badly. Put your baby or toddler in a high chair or playpen to keep them from being burned or scalded by hot liquids. Make sure preschoolers stay seated at the kitchen table or out of the way while you are cooking. You could also use a safety gate to keep your children out of the kitchen when cooking. Cooking on the back burners and turning the pot handles in prevent your child from being able to reach the pots.
  • Use a cup with a tight-fitting lid, such as a travel cup, for hot or warm liquids.
  • Keep cords from your kettle and other appliances out of your child's reach
    • Your child could pull at the cords of the kettle hanging over the edge of the counter and scald themselves with the hot water from the kettle.


Serious burns can have long-term consequences for a child. They often must have many skin grafts and may have to wear compression garments for up to two years. Because children are always growing, they are likely to have scarring and contracting of the skin and underlying tissue as they heal. Many children are left with disfigurement, permanent physical disability, and emotional difficulties.

Gas fireplaces

  • Keep your child away from gas fireplaces. The glass barrier on your gas fireplace can heat up to over 200 C (400 F) in about six minutes during use. It takes an average of 45 minutes for the fireplace to cool to a safe temperature after the fire is switched off.
  • Place a barrier around your gas fireplace. Install safety gates around the gas fireplace or at doorways to the room that has the fireplace. Young children under five years of age, and especially those under two years, are most at risk. When young children begin walking, they often fall. Hands and fingers are burned on the glass and metal parts of the door as young children raise their arms to stop their fall. Also, young children are attracted to the flames and want to touch them.
  • Supervise your child. Never leave a young child alone near a gas fireplace; they can be burned before, during, and after use of the fireplace.
  • Teach children about the dangers of fire, and supervise. Teach your child the dangers of fire but teaching alone will not prevent your child from an injury. Young children, especially toddlers, may know a safety rule but will not necessarily follow it.


Every year an estimated 40 children, age 14 and under, die from fires and other burns. Another 770 are hospitalized for serious injuries. Fires and flames account for 34 per cent of hospitalizations, with fireplaces and woodstoves making up 7.5 per cent.

Here are some safety tips to protect your child from fire burns:

  • Smoke detectors save lives. 
    • Install smoke detectors on every level of the home and in each sleeping area.
    • The risk of fire-related deaths is three times higher in homes without working smoke detectors than those with smoke detectors. Most children who died in residential fires were in homes without smoke detectors or without working smoke detectors. 
  • Lighters/Matches
    • Keep lighters and matches out of sight and out of reach.
    • Make sure to use child-resistant lighters and keep them out of your child's sight and reach.