California Child Burn Injury Lawyer

Christopher Keane
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California Child Abuse and Child Injury Lawyer

Let the Keane Law Firm give you some facts about children and burns: 

Burn injuries are the second most common cause of death in children, second to motor vehicle accidents. Thousands of children are hospitalized every year with burn injuries. Approximately 3,000 children die a year from burn injuries. The survivors suffer varying degrees of permanent physical disfigurement and psychological trauma. Burns are widely regarded as one of the most painful and complex injuries that a victim may endure.  Survival and recovery from burn injuries is often very difficult and lengthy with serious complications along the way. In fact, statistics show that children under four years old are two times more likely to sustain a burn injury than older children and therefore their death rate from burn injuries is higher. Developmentally speaking, the skin of younger children is thinner and therefore an injury from burns can cause a greater degree of injury. Keep in mind that a young child’s skin burns at a lower temperature and a greater depth than that of an older child or an adult’s skin. Also, younger victims are less likely to survive due to the inability of their young bodies to endure the significant physical stress of injury and healing. The higher burn injury rate in young children can be attributed to the higher likelihood of sustaining injury from non-accidental burns in an abusive domestic setting. Also the developmental level of the child within a hazardous environmental setting is more likely to result in burn injury. Because of these facts, providers generally screen for non-accidental injury and hazardous environmental causes when burn injury victims are initially encountered in the clinical setting.  Though a burn injury may be thought to be non-intentional, burn injuries are often preventable. In general burn injuries are classified as flame contact injuries, flash injuries from combustible agents, thermal injuries, scalding injuries, chemical injuries or electrical burn injuries. Scalding burns from hot liquid are the most common cause of burn injury in younger children, while contact with flames resulting in burn injuries are more common in older children. House fires are responsible for very lethal injuries and are usually associated with inhalation injuries due to smoke exposure. Approximately 45% of house fire victims die as a result of their complex injuries. According to Edelman, death from house fires occurs more often in the African-American, Hispanic and Native American preschool population then in the non-Hispanic, white population.  

In the infant and toddler population, scalding burns from hot liquid is the most common type of burn. And the cause of a burn injury influences how well a child will heal from the injury. For instance, burns from scalding hot liquid on a small surface area, though very painful, tend to heal a little better than electrical burn injuries. Because electrical burn injuries involve trauma associated with electrical current passing through the body leaving traumatic injury in its path, such as neurological damage and heart problems. So the superficial area of burn does not reflect the true extent of internal injury from electricity. That isn’t to say that scalding wounds are not debilitating, because they can be. If a child is scalded by submersion in a hot tub, the injury is life threatening due to the large surface area of injury. Toddlers must be watched closely because they may also put their mouths on electrical cords or stick their fingers and other items into electrical sockets. Toddlers have also been known to tip their walkers into fire places when left unattended in environments with open flames.  

The classification of burns has been traditionally referred to as first, second, third or fourth degree burns. However, the use of terms such as superficial, superficial partial-thickness, deep partial-thickness and full thickness descriptors are becoming more common. Once a burn injury is sustained, different clinical factors present and the victim’s condition may change from day to day. Sometimes these changes make a burn wound worse and may require more treatment in the days following the original injury. So it is hard to tell how extensive an injury is until time goes by and the degree of injury becomes better understood. The degree of injury guides clinical practice and treatment. In general, a child is hospitalized if a superficial burn injury, or worse, exceeds 9% of the total body surface area or if abuse is suspected. And if a full-thickness burn involves 2%, or more of the body surface area the child will be hospitalized. The anatomical location of the injury is also considered while making treatment decisions. Burns to the face, perineum, hands and feet require hospitalization. If 1% body surface area, or greater, of these surface areas are burned, the child will likely be hospitalized. Also requiring special attention are joint areas affected by burn injury. Scarring could cause significant disability and these injuries must be handled carefully. Serious burn injuries require extensive therapies to help victims recover. A multidisciplinary approach is necessary for burn injuries to provide victims with medical, surgical, rehabilitation, nutritional, physical therapy, pain management, and psychological assistance over an extended period of time. If your child is injured from a burn, you will meet many health care providers that will be involved in his or her care.  

After hospitalization and during rehabilitation, care for the child recovering from burn injuries requires consistent and vigilant attention. For instance, someone that is recovering from a burn injury must use precautions to avoid exposure to sun light. Healing burned skin does not tolerate sun exposure like normal skin. Sunburns must be avoided to prevent further insult to injury. Also scar tissue needs to be monitored during the course of growth and development in children to avoid further disfigurement and compounded disability.  And physical therapy, pain management with rehabilitative services will be needed for an extended period of time.    

How do I prevent child injury from burns at home or in a child care center?  

According to the Mayo Clinic, and other sources, the following safety precautions are recommended:  

  • Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees F so water does not get scolding hot while children are running the hot water faucet. 
  • Bath water should be no hotter than 100 degrees F. A child submerged in hot bath water at 140 degrees F for a few seconds will sustain serious burn injury and require multiple surgeries with skin grafts and a lengthy hospitalization.   
  • Turn all handles of the pots and pans on the stove inward toward the middle of the range top, so children can’t grab or knock the handles while hot food is cooking. Also, cook on the back burners whenever possible. Fires from cooking are the number one cause of fires in child day care centers.  
  • Do not allow children to play near the stove while you are cooking.  
  • Do not leave electrical appliances, such as irons, curling irons, heating pads and electrical blankets, heated and unattended while children and infants are present. 
  • Check food that has been micro-waved to ensure that the food is evenly heated and not excessively hot. Never heat a baby bottle in the microwave.  
  • Cool mist humidifiers are safer than steam vaporizers.   
  • While cooking food, never leave a barbeque grill or stove unattended with children around.  
  • If you park your car in direct sunlight, or on a hot day, check the baby seat temperature before placing a child in it.  
  • As fun as fireworks are to watch and play with, leave the fireworks to trained individuals and watch from a distance. Even sparklers are capable of severely burning and significantly harming a child.  
  • Keep all combustible material safely locked up in child resistant storage areas. 
  • Keep all lighters and matches safely hidden or locked away. 
  • Do not smoke in the house or while lying in bed.  Ensure that cigarette butts are completely put out prior to disposing of them. Do not throw cigarette butts on the ground. Prior to discarding ash trays in the garbage, ensure that the cigarette butts are cooled completely.  
  • Supervise children while they are cooking, do not let them engage in cooking activity until it is age appropriate for them to be safe with micro-waved food and cooking in the range top.  
  • Never leave a space heater on unattended or while you are sleeping. 
  • Make sure you put out burning candles before you leave the room or fall asleep. And don’t burn candles in areas where children are playing. 
  • Install smoke alarms on every floor of the house, apartment or building. One smoke alarm is not enough. You should install smoke alarms by every stairway and bedroom if the building is large. Make sure you have extra batteries and a routine for checking your batteries. With smoke alarms, the chances of dying in a house fire are reduced by approximately 50%. If a sprinkler system is present, then death by house fire is reduced by approximately 80%.   
  • Devise a fire escape plan and practice it with the children. Know at least two exits in the floor plan. Participating in fire safety programs with the local fire department will save your life. Because waking up to a house full of black smoke will cause disorientation due to lack of oxygen and inability to see. You must have a plan to save you and your children under these circumstances already devised. Small children like to hide during fires and this will delay finding them and exiting the burning structure.  
  • Avoid exposing an infant to direct sun light during peak hours of sunshine, between the hours of 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. 
  • Use sunscreen on your child or infant and clothing that protects from excessive exposure. 
  • Remember to be cautious of fireplaces while a fire is burning. Fire place screens that are affixed to the fireplace are safer for children than free-standing fire place screens. 
  • Never leave an infant unattended in a room where a fire place is burning.  
  • Check bath water for appropriate temperature prior to placing your infant or child in the tub. 
  • Infant and children clothing should be made from non-flammable material. 
  • Keep electrical cords safely out of sight and placed to avoid accidental contact and displacement of electrical appliances. 
  • Cover electrical outlets with plastic caps. 
  • Place barriers in front of heat-emitting appliances. Heightened awareness is indicated during the winter months when Christmas trees and heaters are present.   
  • Teach children the meaning of hot as soon as they are able to understand the concept. Children should be taught to avoid the dangers of playing with matches and open flames too. Caregivers should model appropriate behavior and management of open flames.  
  • Keep oven doors closed while in use.  
  • Do not smoke cigarettes around infants and children. 
  • Do not drink hot beverages while holding an infant or child. 
  • Do not leave toddlers unattended in tubs, it takes minimal effort to turn on the hot water faucet and a child may burn himself in hot water when left alone.