Boys are almost twice as likely as girls to burn themselves and children under three face particular risks, according to research published in the February issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing.
A team from Malmo University in Sweden looked at 148 children up to the age of six who were taken to the University Hospital and 21 health centres.
They discovered that 96 percent of the accidents could have been prevented, as they happened at home when an adult was nearby, and that 64 percent of the injured children were boys.
80 percent of the children's injuries were scalds, with 71 percent of those caused by hot liquids and 29 percent caused by hot food. Many of them happened because children tried to reach up and pull hot food or liquid off a stove.
The non-scald injuries included a child putting its hand on a stove, standing in hot candle wax and sitting down on a barbecue grill. "72 percent of the burns victims were under three years old" says lead author Anna Carlsson. "We believe that this is because children of this age often stay closer to their parents while they are cooking and are more exposed to burn risks. By the age of three most children have a greater understanding of the concept of danger. "
None of the children were scalded by hot baths, a danger frequently identified by other studies and one of the main causes of burns' fatalities among children. "The main reason for this finding may be that hot tap water cannot be more than 55 degrees Centigrade under Swedish law, due to the risk of infection from Legionnaires Disease" explains Anna Carlsson.
60 percent of the children sustained injuries on their hand or arm, followed by the trunk (42 percent), leg or foot (21 percent) and face (17 percent). Some children had injuries on more than one part of the body.
"Parents need to be more aware of the risks that children face in the home, particularly when they are in the kitchen" concludes Anna Carlsson. "Making sure that pan handles don't overhang the cooker is just one of the simple safety tips that could prevent burns injuries to small children.
"Particular attention also needs to be paid to children under three, as they are less aware of the dangers they face, and parents of small boys need to be extra vigilant."