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Protect Children from Gas Fireplace Burns


TORONTO (December 20, 2004) – With cold winter temperatures fast approaching, Safe Kids Canada is reminding parents to protect young children from gas fireplaces, a dangerous source of heat that can cause severe burns.

According to a study conducted by The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids), contact burns from appliances found in the home are common in young children. The study examined 27 cases of children who were treated at Sick Kids with burns caused by touching the glass fronts of gas fireplaces. The average age of children burned by gas fireplaces was 14-months-old. Most children were burned in their own home and almost half of them burned the palms and digits of both hands. Of this group, 37 per cent of children were burned by losing their balance near the fireplace; 30 per cent touched the glass front out of curiosity; and seven per cent walked too close to the glass front. Eleven percent of the children required skin graft surgery to close the wounds. The study was reported in the November/December 2004 issue of the Journal of Burn Care & Rehabilitation.

“All it takes is a few seconds for a curious child to get severely burned. A toddler’s skin is thinner and burns more quickly than adult’s skin,” says the study’s lead author Julie Zettel, outpatient care coordinator for Sick Kids’ Burn Unit. “When hands are burned children may be required to be admitted to the hospital for specialized care. At the very least, families may need to make repeated visits to the hospital for wound care and extensive rehabilitation. This may include the child wearing splints on their hands, and the caregiver massaging and exercising the scars that may form several times each day for at least a year.”

Young children under five years of age, and especially those under two years, are at an increased risk.

“Parents need to closely supervise their kids when using a gas fireplace or consider not using it all when the kids are around. Another good option is to put a safety barrier up to keep them at a safe distance,” says Allyson Hewitt, executive director of Safe Kids Canada, the national injury prevention program located at The Hospital for Sick Children.

Children are not only at risk for burns when the gas fireplace is in use but before and after use too. A previous study shows that the glass barrier can heat up to more than 200°C in about six minutes during use. It takes an average of 45 minutes for the fireplace to cool to a safe temperature after a burning fire has been extinguished. Some children have even been burned when the fireplace is not in use, by the heat from the ignition light. Children are at risk of a burn injury whenever they are around a gas fireplace.

To keep you child safe around gas fireplaces and to prevent burns from occurring to your child at home, Safe Kids Canada recommends the following: Never leave a young child alone near a gas fireplace; they can be burned before, during and after use of the fireplace. Create a barrier around the gas fireplace. Safety guards can be installed to keep your child at a safe distance at all times. Safety gates can keep your child from being in the room alone. Consider not using the fireplace if you have young children less than five years of age, using it only after your children have gone to sleep, or consider turning the unit off completely, including the ignition flame, whenever the unit is not in use. Teach older children about the dangers of fire. Children are fascinated by heat and fire and may not understand the dangers. Be aware of contact burn dangers from irons, curling irons, radiators, older oven doors, wood-burning stoves, and fireplaces.

Safe Kids Canada is the national injury prevention program of The Hospital for Sick Children. For more safety tips, visit the Safe Kids Canada Web site www.safekidscanada.ca or call 1-888-SAFE-TIPS.