Never leave children or boiling liquids unattended in the kitchen.

Safety Tips to Prevent Burns & Scalds When in the Kitchen with Kids

Safety Corner

Introducing children to cooking early in life can lead to healthier eating habits in adulthood.

However, the kitchen can be a dangerous place for young chefs, especially when recipes call for heating foods and beverages on the stove, in the oven or with the microwave.

“We want to remind families who may be cooking at home to always keep fire safety in mind whenever they are in the kitchen to avoid painful, scalding burns and dangerous home fires,” says Lisa Dau, a registered nurse and injury prevention coordinator at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.

“Cooking is a great way to engage older children and teach them responsible habits,” Dau says. “One of the first things to teach them is to never leave the kitchen when they are using the stove or oven. Remember – the leading cause of home fires is unattended cooking.”

Microwaves also can cause injuries if food heats too quickly and unevenly.

“Liquid tends to heat unevenly in a microwave, which can produce hot areas and lead to burns,” Dau cautions. “Don’t let children use the microwave by themselves until they are tall enough to reach the appliance safely and are able to understand that steam can cause burns. Once they have microwave privileges, instruct kids to use oven mitts or potholders when handling any hot item, no matter if it was cooked in the microwave, stove or oven.”

As an example, Dau cites prepackaged microwavable soups as a common cause of scald burns. Instead, she recommends adults choose premade soups and serve the meal in a wide-base container to prevent a spill.

“In Hawaii, hot liquid burns from saimin are another frequent occurrence,” Dau adds. “It’s important to let food cool before touching it. If your child is really hungry and is having trouble waiting, put some ice cubes in the liquid to make it cool faster.”

Other helpful reminders for parents and caregivers include the following:

  • Turn pot handles away from the front edge of the stove to avoid spills.

  • Never use wet oven mitts or potholders because they can cause scald burns.

  • To avoid steam burns, always open food containers slowly and away from a person's face.

  • Create a "kid-free zone" at least 3 feet in diameter surrounding the stove or any location where hot meals or beverages are prepared or transported.

  • Avoid heating milk or infant formula in the microwave. Instead, place bottles in warm water and make sure they have cooled to the appropriate temperature before feeding your baby.

  • Never carry a child while preparing food, consuming hot drinks or carrying hot objects.

In 2020, more than 71,000 children across the United States, including more than 32,000 children aged 4 and younger, were injured due to a fire or burn and treated in emergency departments.

To help raise awareness about burn safety, the team at Kapiolani created the video “Teddy Goes to the Hospital.”

This child-friendly video follows Teddy along his medical journey at Kapiolani – from his arrival at the emergency department to the care he received from the doctors, nurses and other staff who work at the medical center.

Families are encouraged to watch this video together to learn how burns are taken care of at Kapiolani, as well as easy-to-follow tips to stay safe around hot liquids.

You can watch the full video below. For more educational videos from Kapiolani Medical Center and Hawaii Pacific Health, visit our YouTube channel.




Published on: February 6, 2023