Tips for preventing winter burns and fires

Happy little girls sitting by a fireplace on Christmas eve
Use a protective screen on fireplaces to help keep curious children out of reach, but be aware that screens should not be touched as they can become very hot and cause burns.

Purchasing presents, baking cookies, and taking advantage of seasonal activities are on most families mind this time of year. Burn and fire prevention should also be top of mind. Burn and fire prevention is extremely important for families, especially during the winter season. Home fires happen in the winter more than any other season and 67 percent of winter fires occur in one- and two-family homes.

Please consider the following prevention tips this season:

Heating equipment

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire fatalities. A space heater shouldn’t be used as the main source of heat for an entire home. If used, space heaters should be kept at least three feet away from any materials that could catch fire and from children. Heaters should be placed on a level surface and unplugged when you leave a room for a significant amount of time.

Use a protective screen on fireplaces to help keep curious children out of reach, but be aware that screens should not be touched as they can become very hot and cause burns. Children should always have supervision around fireplaces. Ovens should never be used to heat homes.

Kitchen safety

Cooking together as a family during the holidays is a beloved tradition for many. Scald burns, caused by all hot liquids, oil, and grease, are treated often by medical professionals. Turn handles of pots and pans toward the back of the stove while cooking.  Do not hold hot foods or liquids while holding a small child.

Most important, do not leave food cooking unattended, especially around children. Be careful when removing liquids from the microwave because microwaved liquids can also cause burns. Be sure the oven and additional cooking appliances are turned off before you leave the kitchen.

Holiday decorations

Many families look forward to decorating for the winter holidays, but should remember to be smart. Two out of five decoration fires are caused by candles. Use battery powered or flameless candles. Lit candles should be kept a foot away from any materials that could catch fire and from children. Christmas trees and other large decorations should be kept three feet away from any heaters and fireplaces. If string lights are hung, be sure to read the manufacture instructions ahead of time. Christmas trees should be disposed once the holiday is over because dry trees catch fire more easily.

Important checkups 

Smoke alarms should be working efficiently and checked monthly for any faults. Carbon monoxide alarms should also be checked once a month. It’s recommended that heating equipment and fireplaces be inspected and cleaned yearly by a professional.

For additional information on fire prevention and public education, visit the U.S. Fire Administration. Paul Glat, MD, is chief of plastic surgery and director of the Burn Center for Children at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children