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Preventing and Treating Burns and Scalds

Information on preventing and treating burns and scalds
Kid pulling pot handle larger version
Turn pot handles inward

The leading burn problem in Massachusetts is hot liquid scalds to children under age 5. Learn to prevent and treat burns from hot liquid and burns from fire and heat. 

Burn Awareness Week, February 7-13, 2021

Fire departments can use Burn Awareness Week to promote burn awareness in their communities. The theme for Burn Awareness Week 2021 is: Electrical Safety from Amps to Zap (A to Z)! Learn more at


In 2019, there were 330 burn injuries reported to the 2019 M-BIRS Annual Report That's a 4% decrease from the 345 burns reported in 2018. Children and older adults are more likely to suffer burn injuries than any other age group. Scald burns are the leading cause of burns to children under five.

Preventing Burns and Scalds

Hot drink safety 

  • Never hold a baby and a cup of hot liquid. A wiggling baby can cause a spill on himself or on you.  
  • Use a travel mug when drinking hot beverages around babies and young children. Keep it latched close when not actively sipping to minimize or prevent scald burns.
  • Keep hot liquids away from babies and small children. Put drinks and soups in the center of the table away from curious fingers. 
  • Replace tablecloths with place mats to prevent children from pulling everything on a table onto themselves.

Tap water safety

  • It takes only one second for water at 155˚F to cause a third degree burn.
  • Set your hot water heater to 125˚F or less. Massachusetts law requires a temperature  between 110˚F and 130˚F.
  • Supervise young children in the bath and face them away from faucets. Babies and toddlers can turn on hot water when you turn your back.

Cooking safety

  • Children under age five are 5 times more likely to be burned by cooking than others.
  • Keep children away from stoves, grills, campfires and fireplaces. This protects them from cooking liquids, grease, and hot metal.
  • Stay away from stove burners and from flames. Turn pot handles inward on the stove top.
  • Don't wear loose clothing near fire, grills or stoves.
  • Keep appliance cords out of reach of children.
  • Turn off unattended irons.
  • Never use gasoline to start a fire. Use starter fluid with caution.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Use sunscreen.

Glass front fireplaces are a burn risk

  • Glass front fireplaces have surface temperatures of 172 degrees F and have caused contact burns in young children.
  • Beginning in 2015, protective barriers were required on new installations of vented gas fireplaces.
  • Many homes, hotels and resorts have unprotected glass front fireplaces. Supervise children with care near all glass front fireplaces.  


Additional Resources for

Treating Burns and Scalds

  • Remove victims from danger and call 911.
  • Run burns under cool water. Do not put butter, grease or ointment on a burn.
  • Flush chemical burns continuously.
  • Remove watches or jewelry from a burned area.
  • Don't remove clothing from a burn.
  • Cover burn with a clean sheet or towel.