Hot drinks and foods remain the number one cause of serious burns to young children, prompting a warning to be extra careful when warming winter beverages this year.

Last winter, 73 children were treated at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane for scalds caused by hot beverages and foods including soups, stews and noodles.

These burns ranged from first-degree superficial burns to third-degree full-thickness burns, with hands being the body part most commonly injured.

The age group most at risk of these burns are one year olds, who account for 28 per cent of all burns patients at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. Furthermore, 60 per cent of all burns occur in children under the age of three.

Professor Roy Kimble, Director of Burns and Trauma at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital urged parents to take extra care when serving or walking around with hot drinks when young children are around ­- and possibly under feet.

“Children aged one to three are most at risk of sustaining these types of burns injuries due to their increased mobility,” Professor Kimble said.

“Serious burns can occur very quickly and are extremely painful, often leading to lengthy treatment and permanent scarring.”

Professor Kimble recommended parents and carers of young children always use cups with secure lids for hot drinks and soups.

“It’s also important to place cups and dishes away from the edges of tables and benches where curious little hands cannot reach them.”

He also warned families to always supervise children around domestic heaters.

In winter 2016, 10 children were treated at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital for burns injuries caused by contact with a gas, wood or electric heater.

Hot water taps, stoves, coals and ashes, and boiling water from saucepans and kettles are also among the top 10 causes of burns in children in the winter months.

“Young children are not aware of the dangers associated with heaters, so parents must remain vigilant and always supervise them when heaters are in use,” Professor Kimble said.

“In many cases the burns we see are a result of a child touching the grate or metal casing surrounding the heater, rather than the heating element itself.”

How to treat a burn

Prof. Kimble said parents could dramatically reduce the severity of a burn by acting quickly and administering the correct first aid.

“The best first-aid treatment for a burn is to place the injured area under cool running water for 20 minutes and seek medical treatment immediately by phoning 000,” he said.

“While it is ideal to apply first aid immediately, if running water is not available at the scene, it is still beneficial to apply cold running water up to three hours after the injury.”

After running cool water over the burn for 20 minutes, cover it with clear plastic wrap (if available) or a clean cloth and keep the patient warm.

Never use ice, oil, butter or ointments on a burn as this can further damage the skin.

The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital treated a total of 1018 children for burns injuries in 2016 – a increase of almost 10 per cent on the previous year. Of this number, 346 of them required surgery for their injuries.

Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital shared the Top 10 causes of children’s burns in Winter 2016

1 Hot beverages 45
2 Water from saucepan/kettle 19
3 Food (Noodles) 14
4 Food (other) 13
5 Hotplate (stove) 13
6 Heater (wood, gas, electric) 10
7 Hot metal (other) 10
8 Coals/ashes 9
9 Water in bucket or other container 9
10 Hot water tap (bath, shower, or sink) 8

Share your comments below.

  • always a great reminder for people to be vigilant. you should be cautious with the kids


  • How scary. How can you as a parent not check your kids food!!


  • There is a special system that controls the temperature of the water in the bathroom. Presumably you can re-set it if you wish to. Neighbours of ours had one with a special “fitting” inside ( in their case in the kitchen) that showed the temperature the Hot Water System was set at. It showed the current water temperature if the system stopped working – or in their case was stolen – it showed 0.


  • Luckily indeed, Ellen. There can be so many dangers in our homes when there are small kids around.


  • Oh those curious hands and dangers everywhere indeed.
    I remember well when I was a kid, my cousin pulled a pan with rice over himself and was severely burned. So important to cook on the back stoves.
    In our previous (rented) property we only had gas heaters. We couldn’t use the heaters when our youngest very inquisitive one was up, resulting that we were for a couple of winters freezing cold. Luckily our current property has an air-conditioned heater cooler system.


  • We are very careful and vigilant around anything that could cause burns.

    • We also turn down the temp on water – prevention goes a long way.


  • Kids are so fast on their feet, can’t be too careful, we have to put all of our drinks up on top of our large tv unit because of their speed!


  • We were so careful, but I feel for parents who have accidents.


  • Indeed, so dangerous. And still you see many parents enjoying a hot cup of coffee while holding a baby on their lap. Hopefully people will become more and more careful.


  • Thanks for how to treat the burns,you never know!


  • Always extra careful after I was scalded with boiling water when I was 11. My scars are the warning for heaps of my friends kids.


  • Good advice for the winter season.


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