Child Safety Scotland

Burns and Scalds

Straight Off Straight Away

A toddler's skin is much thinner than an adult's and will burn or scald more quickly so it is essential that steps are taken to ensure this does not happen. Burns are from sources of dry heat and this can be from many items that are commonly found within a home and include radiators, hair straighteners, irons and open fires. Scalds are the result of contact from wet heat and this could be from bath water, a cup of tea or steam from the kettle.

How to prevent burns and scalds

In the kitchen

To keep your child safe, young children should be kept out of the kitchen while cooking activities are being carried out, and this could be done through using a safety gate across the kitchen door to restrict access. Older children should be supervised in the kitchen, especially when cooking or baking. It is good practice to use the back rings on a cooker, and ensure that pan handles are turned to the side, away from the hob.

Kettles should be used that have a short or coiled flex so that young children cannot grab them and pull them off the work top. Or alternatively, a cordless kettle could be considered.

Toasters and kettles can generate a lot of heat so items like this that are commonly found in kitchens should be placed at the back of worktops out of reach of young children.

Door guards are available for ovens to protect against the risks of high door surface temperatures.

Ultimately, supervision is essential when children are in the kitchen.

In the bathroom

Child bath

Children can receive serious scalds from hot water from bath taps, which can result in a life time of visits to hospital. Before a young child is placed in the bath the water should be tested with your elbow and should not feel too hot or too cold. A thermostatic mixing valve can also be fitted to the hot tap to control the temperature of the water that comes out of it. In Scotland, all properties that were built after 2006 will have a thermostatic mixing valve already installed to the bath.

Cold water should always be run first and babies and young children should never be left on their own in the bathroom. You should talk to children about hot water safety from an early age and help them to learn about the risks.

In the bedroom

Hair straighteners can reach temperatures of 210 degrees and can take up to 40 minutes to cool down. Because children's skin can be up to 15 times thinner than an adult's, horrific injuries can occur very quickly. Hair straighteners and other heated styling tools should be switched off and stored out of sight and reach in a heat resistant pouch straight after use. This will also help to prevent any injuries from cooling styling tools.

In the living room


Hot drinks cause most scalds to children under five and hot drinks should be kept well away from young children. A baby should never be held at the same time as a hot drink as babies are very unpredictable with their movements and it is very easy for the contents of a cup to spill all over them.

Hot drinks should not be left on coffee tables where they can easily be grabbed by inquisitive toddlers. Hot drinks should be placed well away from young children.

Young toddlers like to pull on everything that they see so it is advisable to avoid ironing with your toddler around to prevent a hot iron being pulled to the ground. Irons should be stored out of sight and out of reach, especially when cooling down.

Fire guards should be used on any open fires and they should be attached securely to the wall or fire surround to avoid them from toppling over.