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      NSC HOME > Safety at Home > Home and Recreational Safety > Burns      


Burns can result from everyday things and activities in your home. The most common causes of burns are from scalds (steam, hot bath water, hot drinks and foods), fire, chemicals, electricity and overexposure to the sun. Some burns may be more serious than others.

The severity of the burn is based on the depth of the burn. First degree burns are the least severe, and third degree burns are the most severe. Call 911 or seek medical attention if you are unsure of how severe your burn is.

All burns are susceptible to tetanus (lockjaw). Get a tetanus shot every 10 years. If your last shot was 5 years ago, talk to your doctor - you may need a booster shot.

Treating Burns

Some burns may require medical attention for treatment. For other, more minor burns, you can easily treat it yourself. Learn ways to treat burns.


Scalding injuries and burns are caused by hot tap water, hot beverages and food, and steam. Although scalding injuries can happen to anyone at any age, children, older adults and persons with disabilities are the most vulnerable. Sixty percent of all scald injuries are suffered by children between the ages of 0-4 years.

The most common areas where scalding injuries occur are in the kitchen or dining area from spills with hot liquids or foods and in the bathing area from hot water.


Prevent burns from fires by preventing fires in your home. Learn more about preventing fires under the fire safety section.

If your clothes catch on fire STOP, DROP and ROLL.
STOP immediately.
DROP to the ground and cover your face with your hands.
ROLL over and over or back and forth to put out the fire.

Immediately cool the burn with cold running tap water until the area is free from pain even after removal from the water. Then seek emergency medical care, especially for burns on the face, hands, genitals or feet.

Electrical burns

You may not recognize an electrical burn at first, but they can cause serious injury. Very often, the entry and exit points for the electrical current are not easily found so it’s important to be extremely careful around a person with an electrical burn.

An electrical current, including lightening, can easily pass through our bodies. This can cause severe internal injury including disturbance in heart rhythm, cardiac arrest or respiratory difficulty or respiratory arrest.  Seek medical attention if you think an electrical burn may have occurred.

Chemical burns

Chemicals that are strong acids or bases can cause chemical burns. Household items that may cause burns include bleach, concrete mix, drain or toilet bowl cleaner, metal cleaners, or pool chlorinators.

All chemical burns are medical emergencies. Most will need outpatient care. Some may develop into or cause deep tissue damage. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Redness or irritation at the site of contact
  • Pain or burning sensation at site of contact
  • Formation of blisters or discolored skin at contact site
  • Vision changes if the chemical gets into your eye
  • Cough or shortness of breath

And in severe cases, some may develop:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Faintness, weakness, dizziness
  • Shortness of breath or severe cough
  • Headache
  • Muscle twitches or seizures
  • Cardiac arrest or irregular heartbeat


Sunburns are caused when a person’s skin is exposed too much sun. Symptoms of sunburn include:

  • Red, tender skin that feels warm to the touch
  • Blisters which can develop anywhere from a few hours to a few days later
  • Severe reactions including fever, chills, nausea or rash (sun poisoning)
  • Peeling of the skin which will occur several days after a sun burn

Although these symptoms are temporary, the damage to your skin can be permanent. Too much exposure to the sun increases your risk of premature aging and skin cancer.  Infants and children are more sensitive to sun and people with fair skin are more likely to get sunburn. But, everyone, no matter your age or skin tone, or whether it’s sunny or overcast, should protect themselves from the sun’s rays.



Protect the ones you love from burns.


 NSC: Tips to Prevent Burns

CDC: Burns Fact Sheet

U.S. Fire Administration: Prevent Scalds and Burns




Learn how to treat a burn with First Aid. The National Safety Council offers courses online and in the classroom.  

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