Having little helpers in the kitchen is a great way to spend time with young children, but parents should take precautions to minimize burn and scald risks.

While many parents are aware that children can be burned by hot tap water, they should become familiar with other potential risks, including reaching into the microwave and spilling hot liquids, and pulling pots off the stove when trying to help stir.

Approximately 11,325 children are treated annually in emergency departments for scalds. In most cases, children are burned when trying to be self-sufficient or helpful, according to a study from the University of Chicago. The study revealed that children younger than 5 years old with scald burns accounted for 22% of admissions to a Chicago burn center over a three-year period. Hot cooking or drinking liquids (e.g., soup, tea or hot chocolate, water used for cooking hot dogs and steam) caused 90% of incidents, and only 10% were a result of contact with too-hot tap water.

Following are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for preventing scalds:

  • Remember that steam is hotter than boiling water. Be careful with children, even at a distance, around bathtubs or pots and pans with boiling water.

  • Set household water heaters to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Use cool-mist vaporizers. Hot-water vaporizers can cause steam burns or can spill on children.

  • Never leave spoons or other utensils in pots while cooking.

  • Tuck in the ends of tablecloths. Many scalds occur when children tug on, catch or trip on loose tablecloth ends.

  • Test food or liquids from the microwave before giving to children.

If your child suffers a scald or burn, soak the injured area in cool water. Do not ice the area or use remedies such as butter or grease, according to the AAP. For more serious burns that include redness, oozing or pain that lasts longer than a few hours, contact your pediatrician right away.