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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. This results in more serious burns at lower temperatures. Most burns and fire injuries and deaths happen 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. Being around adults who play with matches or lighters.

< 5 years


The greatest number of pediatric burns involve infants and toddlers younger than 3 years of age burned by scalding liquids.

Kitchen injury from tipping scalding liquids from stoves or tables. Bathtub scalds are often connected with lack of supervision or child abuse. Mouth burns from baby bottles warmed in a microwave due to uneven heating and hot spots.

< 5 years


Biting on electrical cord, which can cause bad, deep burns on sides of mouth. Or sticking forks or other metal objects into electrical outlets.

5 to 10 years


Male children are at an increased risk, often due to fire play and risk-taking behaviors. Seeing adults who model dangerous behavior also puts them at increased risk.

5 to 10 years


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



Injury connected with male peer-group activities involving gasoline or other products that are easily set on fire and quickly burn (flammable).



Happens 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 and carbon monoxide alarms

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

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

  • Modeling unsafe behavior

  • Failing to establish an escape plan

  • Working with hot foods or liquids around toddlers and infants

    • Always keep handles of pots facing away from the edge of the stove.

    • Use back burners whenever possible.

    • Keep all young children at least 3 feet away from the stove when you are cooking.

  • Failing to check the temperature of tap water and 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 extra heating equipment or even candles on while adults and children are asleep

Online Medical Reviewer: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2023
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