Burn Awareness Week takes place each year during the first week of February. It’s a great opportunity to remind ourselves about the common causes of burns and scalds and how to prevent them.

Based on the number of cooking-related fires we see in Madison, it may come as no surprise that the #1 cause of burn-related injury locally is cooking.

“One big cause of scalds is people, especially kids, taking items out of the microwave,” says Andrea Wipperfurth, Manager of UW Hospital’s Burn & Wound Healing Services Unit. “This is most dangerous when the microwave is mounted over their heads. For example, ramen noodles spilling over the head, arms, and chest is a very common injury we see.”

Prepackaged microwavable soups (especially noodle soups) are a frequent cause of scald burn injuries because they can easily tip over, pouring hot liquid and noodles on the person. These injuries are also more common when people are outside of their typical routines and environments. For example, when a new caregiver is caring for a child or when kids are at someone else’s home.

Scald burns are the second leading cause of all burn injuries. They can happen at any age, though children, older adults, and people with disabilities are especially at risk.

How to Prevent Scald Burns

  • Keep hot drinks away from the edge of tables and counters.
  • Use a travel mug with a tight-fitting lid for all hot drinks.
  • Don't allow young children to adjust the water temperature or sit near faucet handles.
  • Keep hot items out of reach of young children who can pull them down (be mindful if there are hot items on a tablecloth that children can grab and pull down).
  • Don't allow appliance cords (slow-cookers, deep fryers, and coffeemakers) to dangle over the counter edge.

Safe Microwaving Tips

  • Open microwaved food slowly, away from the face.
  • Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
  • Never heat a baby bottle in the microwave oven. Heat baby bottles in warm water from the faucet.

Safe Cooking Reminders

  • The best time to cook is when you're wide awake and not drowsy from medications or alcohol.
  • Wear short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking.
  • Turn pot and pan handles toward the back of the stove.
  • Use microwave-safe cookware that allows steam to escape.
  • Allow food to rest before removing from the microwave.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave, turn off all cooking appliances.
  • Have a "kid-free zone" of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried. Download and print this Kid-Free Cooking Zone Marker.

Family Activity


Sources: American Burn Association, National Fire Protection Association
Photo Credit: Erkin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Fire and a link back to the original post.

Category: General, Your Safety