Four Burn Prevention Tips for Practices to Share with Patients

February 21, 2014

Physicians, physician assistants, and other healthcare professionals have a unique opportunity to help prevent burn injuries.

As a father, grandfather, and a physician assistant (PA) working in a burn unit, I believe that burn awareness is something that can never be emphasized enough. Each year, the American Burn Association recognizes the first full week of February as “Burn Awareness Week.” During this week, burn professionals, educators, and firefighters work to highlight the sad but true fact that most burns are preventable.

For example, more than 45 percent of the admissions to our burn unit are children, and more than 90 percent of their burn injuries result from hot liquid scalds in the kitchen and bath. There is no excuse for these injuries, since most result from neglect; accidents with children happen at light speed.

The physicians, PAs, and others reading this blog have a unique opportunity to participate in burn prevention in patient populations of all ages. I hope that you  incorporate these education tips in your education of patients of all ages:

Tip #1: Tap water scalds are often more severe than cooking-related scalds.
Advise patients to set their home water heater thermostats to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is something that I discuss with every parent that I meet and it is the simplest thing that people can do to prevent burn injury in their homes among the very young and very old.

Tip #2: Cooking-related scalds are easy to prevent.
Anyone with children should establish a “kid zone” outside of the traffic path between the stove and sink. This “zone” is where children can safely play and still be supervised. Parents and caregivers should keep young children in high chairs or play yards, located at a safe distance from counter, and from stovetops, hot liquids, hot surfaces, or other cooking hazards.

Tip #3: Tell your patients to cook on back burners when young children are present.
Children can easily reach pots and pans on the front burners. Keep all pot handles turned back, away from the stove edge.

Tip #4: Encourage your patients who are parents or caregivers to fully supervise young children or older adults who cannot remove themselves from hot water.
While it is obvious to most adults that children need to be protected when bathing, the same is true for older adults who have conditions like dementia or have physical disabilities from aging.

Also, remind your patients that children and older adults, due to the thinness of their skin, are at an increased risk for burn injury.

Anyone who has experienced the challenges of caring for a patient who has sustained a significant burn injury knows firsthand the value of burn prevention. Let’s make these injuries as rare as we can, and help our patients reduce these injuries within their homes.

This blog was provided in partnership with the American Academy of Physician Assistants.