Don’t Get Burned! Take it From Me: Busy Parents Are a Hotbed of Risk

{Disclosure: Our partners at The Urgency Room treat many injuries with one of the most common being burns. As a mom herself, Dr. Carolyn McClain, Medical Director of The Urgency Room, has some tips on how to prevent common household burns and how to keep your family and home safe.}

Prevent Burns with The Urgency Room | Twin Cities Moms Blog

As parents, we’re pretty good at the big things when it comes to our children and their safety. We make sure they’re wearing their seatbelts; we put helmets on them when they bike and life jackets when they swim.

But, one of the most common and painful injuries I see at The Urgency Room is hard to prevent and happens in seconds. I’m talking about burns.

Just last week, when the temperature hit 98 degrees, the coolant light in my car went on. I was already in a rush to pick up my kids. Great timing, right? I pulled into the gas station to add coolant. I know you need to wait until the engine cools to put coolant in. But, I remember thinking, how long do I wait? I need to get my kids. Maybe 30 minutes is enough?

Thankfully there was a gentleman from AAA at the gas station who saw me looking under the hood. He kindly reminded me “If you open that coolant cap, you’ll burn your face.” He went on to say I needed to wait until the car was completely cool, which takes much longer than just a half hour.

Here’s the crazy part: as the Medical Director of The Urgency Room, I see patients all the time who make this mistake and suffer scalding burns to their face. I know the danger. But, my need to pick up the kids and tend to the long list of to-do items could have pushed me to make a terrible mistake.

Essentially it comes down to being aware of how easily it can happen, even to someone like me, who knows better. For parents, it’s especially important to consider the burn risks to our children.

Prevent Burns with The Urgency Room | Twin Cities Moms Blog

In The Kitchen

Pans on the stove, cups of coffee, scalding water from the tap… the list goes on and on in the kitchen.

I once treated a three-year-old boy for serious burns from a pot of soup. His mom stepped away to answer the phone. In that short moment when mom looked away, the young boy pulled the pot off the stove and on top of himself. He suffered burns to a good portion of his body including his chest and legs.

In the Bathroom

The bathtub is a top source of burn injuries we see at The Urgency Room. I always remind parents to check the water before putting your child in the tub. One simple google search will open your eyes to the number of children injured or even killed from burns in the bathtub. There was a case locally of a two year-old put in a tub that was too hot. She was burned badly and eventually got a skin infection that took her life. Because the skin serves as a barrier or protective layer, burns put you at an even higher risk for infection.

There are two simple steps to prevent this type of tragedy. Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to below 120 F (48.9 C). Always test the water temperature before your child gets in the tub. Remind grandparents and other friends and family members as well. As kids have overnights and sleepovers, you want to make sure they are safe outside your home as well.

Curling irons are another burn risk in the bathroom. I have a 9-year-old and a 14-year-old and always make sure they are not in the room if I’m using a curling iron. Always unplug it if you are not within arm’s length.

Prevent Burns with The Urgency Room | Twin Cities Moms Blog


I treated a 4-year-old patient who was with his parents at a friend’s house when he went up to the glass front of a fireplace and put both hands on it to look in. The boy had serious burns on both hands that needed to be redressed every other day for 6 weeks. These types of accidents typically happen at someone else’s home. The kids may not be familiar with a fireplace and mom and dad are easily distracted. Again, burns happen when you least expect and in an instant.

Burns on the palms of the hands or bottoms of the feet are also worth noting. These burns are very serious because if they heal with a scar, they can contract making the skin too tight to move. It’s the same with burns anywhere on the face. Always have a doctor look at these injuries.


In my experience, parents are generally very good about putting sunscreen on their kids these days. However, they’re not doing such a good job on themselves. The main problem: too many people forget to reapply. I see this scenario often with adults competing in triathlons or long races. They apply sunscreen before the race and figure they’re good to go. Water and sweat will certainly take a toll on any sun protection making it critical to reapply.

The eyes are another important area to protect in the sun. I had a patient who suffered serious burns to his eyes after relaxing and staring into the water on Lake Minnetonka. Most people don’t realize the reflection from the water can burn your eyes badly. Luckily kids don’t sit still enough to stare at the lake. The solution in all cases is a pair of sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection.


By far the biggest culprit when it comes to children and fireworks is sparklers. It is estimated that more than half of all the firework-related injuries suffered by children under the age of 5 are caused by sparklers. Think about it: a sparkler burns at approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At the very least, always supervise your children if they are holding a sparkler. Never light more than one at a time or give a young child more than one. If you want to avoid the risk altogether, skip the sparklers and leave the fireworks’ show to the professionals.


Every year during the summer and fall season, we run into at least one case of a child falling into a campfire. Too many times the fire is the center of the gathering with children running and playing around it. Make it a point to have a conversation with your children about the danger of the campfire. Ban the kids from running around or near it. Additionally, don’t forget to keep a very close eye on small children.

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. A cup of hot coffee spills on your lap. You grab the handle of a hot pot or forget to put sunscreen on your back. Protecting your children from this pain is really about being aware of your surroundings and potential “hot spots” so no one gets burned.


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