Cooking with Class: Preventing and Treating Kitchen Burns

By Jennifer Jensen

The kitchen can be a place of wonder, for both children and adults alike. Magnificent treats and savory snacks are whipped up in this section of the house, and cooking as a family can be a great source of fun. But, the kitchen is also dangerous. According to Stanford Children’s Health, the leading cause of home fires and related injuries is cooking equipment, and most scald burns to small children are caused by hot food and liquid spills in the kitchen.

Preventing burns

According to UF Health, common causes of burns include more than just fire and touching hot objects. Burns can also result from electrical burns, chemical burns and scalding from both hot liquids and steam. In order to prevent these types of burns from occurring in the kitchen, Janet Popp, nurse manager of UF Health Shands Burn Center, recommends using baby gates, playpens and highchairs to keep children away from the cooking areas unsupervised. Popp also suggested using back burners and turning pots and pan holders inward so that children cannot easily grab them. Kitchen appliances, such as crockpots, deep fryers and smokers, along with their cords, should be kept away from areas where children can easily reach them. Hot foods and liquids should also be kept away from the edges of counters and tables. Of course, these measures should be taken on top of installing smoke alarms and placing fire extinguishers in key areas of the home.

The best way to prevent burns when your children are helping you in the kitchen is to assign them age-appropriate tasks. Nan Jensen, extension agent with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, recommended setting clear safety guidelines and kitchen rules before you start cooking.

Young children should avoid assisting where heat is involved, but Jensen suggested letting kids between the ages of 9 and 12 operate small appliances, like blenders, juicers and microwaves, and use techniques such as baking, broiling, steaming and sauteing to prepare various foods — all with adult supervision.

Treating burns

Many people have heard of the old home remedy of using butter or margarine to treat burns. While plenty of home remedies are used to treat various afflictions successfully, this is not one.

“Do not place anything oil based — e.g., butter — on wounds,” said Popp. In fact, something such as butter can keep in the heat and cause an infection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

In the case of first-degree burns, which leave the skin dry and pink without blisters and are often the result of flash burns, the burn should be kept clean and hydrated. You can apply water-based lotions to help combat the dryness and aloe gel for the pain. However, “if a burn appears over a large area of the body in young child or elderly person, seek medical attention,” said Popp.

Second-degree burns, which form blisters or weeping wounds that are dark pink/red from contact with flame, hot liquids or hot metals, can be managed at home by cleaning daily with mild soap and antibiotic ointment and dry dressing, said Popp.

Third-degree burns show up as dry, waxy and pale or dark wounds. Someone who sustains this type of burn should always seek medical attention, said Popp. And any wounds caused by electricity or prolonged exposure to a flame, hot liquid or grease should be treated medically.

In general, Popp said, anyone who sustains a burn and is feeling ill should seek medical attention. People who have a history of medical conditions that could complicate the healing process, such as diabetes, epilepsy, stroke, heart attack or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease should also head to the hospital.

We all know that accidents can happen in a matter of seconds, but hopefully by following these few recommendations and staying alert in the kitchen, you can prevent any burn-related injuries.