Whether you’re roasting chestnuts or just enjoying the warm glow, fireplaces can help make a home warm and cozy. To a baby, toddler, or young child, flames in a fireplace are a new thing they want to explore.
Take a time out when you arrive at a new place – a hotel, vacation home, or friend/family’s home – to evaluate and assess your kids’ injury risk. Consider taking some of these precautions if you have an infant or toddler in a home, apartment, or hotel with a fireplace. Children are curious and move quickly.
Use a sturdy screen in front of your fireplace to keep little hands out and hot embers in. These screens can get hot too, so remind children to look but not touch.
Kids’ skin is thinner than adults’ skin, and serious burns can happen quickly. If it feels warm to you, it’s too hot for kids to touch.
Install barriers like a multi-panel safety gate/adjustable playpen around fireplaces to keep children at a safe distance. In a vacation home, this could mean placing a rug a few feet away, and telling children they must stay on the rug when the fire is lit.
If blocking the fireplace is challenging, consider using baby gates to keep young children out of rooms with a fireplace.
Never leave a fire unattended and be sure to put out/turn off the fire before going to bed or leaving the house. Screens and glass can remain hot even after the flames are out.
Seasoned hardwood, such as oak, ash or maple, burns cleanest. These types of wood produce less creosote, a highly flammable byproduct of burning wood.
Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned at least once a year, to prevent creosote buildup.
Gas fireplaces: The glass on the front of gas fireplaces can reach temperatures above 500-1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if kids can’t reach the flames in a gas fireplace, curious toddlers are often treated in emergency departments with severe burns to the palms of their hands from touching the glass.
Make your gas fireplace unusable until the kids are older and more responsible. You can do this by removing the light switch and putting a switch plate cover in its place, removing the batteries from the remote control, or putting a permanent barrier in front of your fireplace – just until the kids are older.
If you don’t want to or can’t disable your fireplace, put a sticky note on top of the switch reminding users to keep it off until/unless the kids are in bed.
If you use a gas fireplace, know that the glass will be hot for an hour or two after the fire is turned off. Keep children away as long as possible and provide close supervision when the fireplace is on or has been on in the last hour.
All gas-burning fireplaces made after 2015 are required to be sold with a safety barrier and information about burn risks. Families that already have a gas fireplace in their home, especially those with babies or toddlers, should purchase a barrier or fireplace covering to block toddlers from getting near the hot surface.
Babies and toddlers are curious – and fast – and parents simply cannot watch them every second of the day. Keep your family safer around fireplaces by following these tips.
To report consumer product-related injuries or check your product for recalls, visit www.recalls.gov.
Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, is a principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine and the Division of Epidemiology, College of Public Health at The Ohio State University.
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