Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Preventing Burns at Home


Am Fam Physician. 2000 Nov 1;62(9):2032.

  See related article on management of burns.

You can prevent sunburns by not going outside in the sun for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Use a sunscreen with an SPF (skin protection factor) of 15 or higher. Wear protective clothing (like a hat, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants) if you have to stay out in the sun. Try to protect your skin from the sun between 10 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon.

You can prevent burns from house fires by putting smoke alarms in your home. Check them every week. Put in new batteries every six months. Think about how you would get out of your home in a fire emergency, and plan ahead. Have regular fire drills at home with parents and children.

You can prevent chemical burns by wearing gloves and other protective clothing when you handle chemicals. Store chemicals up high, where children can't reach them.

If you smoke, don't smoke in bed. Get rid of used cigarettes carefully.

Put covers on electrical outlets that children can reach.

Test bath water temperature before you or your children get into the tub or shower. Don't let young children touch the faucet handles during a bath.

Set the temperature on your hot water heater to 130 degrees, or use the “low-medium” setting. Water that is hotter than this can cause burns in 2 to 3 seconds.

Turn the handles of pots and pans toward the side of the stove, or use the back burners of the stove. Don't let small children play near the stove or help you cook at the stove. Don't wear clothing with long loose sleeves when you are cooking.

Use cool-water humidifiers or vaporizers. Hot-steam vaporizers can cause burns if you get too close to them.

Before putting a child younger than 1 year into a car seat, touch the seat to see how hot it is. Hot seat-belt straps or buckles can cause partial-thickness burns on small children. Cover the car seat with a towel if you park in the sun.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


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