Preventing Burns during the Holiday Season

Holidays are times when people get together with family and friends. During this season, many choose to decorate their homes with trees, signs, lights, and candles. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also be a time for accidents and injuries. The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center – New Jersey’s only burn center – has treated many people who’ve sustained significant burns due to house fires during the holidays as well as individuals who were burned while cooking and preparing food for the holidays.

Many holidays involve candles and lights, which can have a festive effect if used properly. Make sure that candles are positioned in a glass or nonflammable container. They should be kept away from curtains or any object that can be blown in the direction of the flame. Lighted candles should never be left unattended.

Trees and wreaths should be placed far from hot, dry places, such as the fireplace. The freshest evergreens are the safest; needles should bend, not drop when brushed by hand. Live decorations should never be burned, and the same can be said for gift-wrapping. The inks and dyes that compose ribbons, paper and garlands break down into poisonous gases when burned. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely. Place paper and decorations in the trash.

If young children are visiting during the holidays, extra precautions should be taken to insure that the children are safe. Young children can easily be scalded from hot foods spilled down onto them from a tabletop or the kitchen counter and can suffer serious injury from playing too near a stove.

If the event of a burn, it is important to immediately take the following steps:

  • Cool all burns with tepid to cool water, regardless of degree. Continue flushing the area for up to 10 minutes. Do not apply ice, ointments, butter or other “home remedies”. Remove all clothing or garments to reduce the contact time with the hot items.
  • Cover affected areas with a clean dry cloth, towel or blanket to protect the burn and minimize pain.
  • Seek medical advice if there is sloughing of the skin. Seek urgent medical attention if the area of skin sloughing is larger than the victim’s palm size.

The following are additional safety tips from The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center:

  • Keep lighters and matches away from young children.
  • Keep young children away from fireplaces and hot ovens.
  • Check electrical lighting for fraying strand and broken bulbs before stringing.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all decorative lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Place a Christmas tree in water as soon as possible and refill the container often.
  • Purchase an artificial tree labeled "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
  • Keep tree trimmings with small, removable or breakable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings resembling candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
  • When buying extra batteries for new toys, don’t forget about the ones for your smoke detectors.

For more information about The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, visit The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas wishes you and your family a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.