Prevention of Wood Heater Burns

Southern Tasmania Area Health ServicesTasmanian Health Service - Southern Region

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The Facts

  • 31% of all children admitted to Burn Units in Australia and New Zealand are aged between 1-2 years.*
  • Contact burns are the second most common cause of burns in children.*
  • The Tasmanian Burns Unit has continued to see an increase in burns related to heaters, especially in relation to wood heaters.
  • Contact burns on the palm or the buttocks are the most common location for wood heater related burns in Tasmania.
  • The burn injury can be severe and deep and require surgical intervention.
  • Children may require ongoing scar management and the functional use/movement of the hand may be affected.
  • Children may require ongoing review for many years and further surgical scar reconstruction.


    *(BRANZ 6th Annual report Jul 14-Jun15)

Types of Burns

Burns from heaters are caused by:

  • Contact with the glass or surrounding hot metal (contact burn)
  • Touching the flame in the wood heater (flame burn)
  • Flash and flame burn to the face and body from putting accelerants on to the fire to assist in lighting (flash and flame burn)
  • Clothing and nightwear catching alight from the flame in the wood heater (flame burn)
  • From sitting or standing too close to the heater or fire (radiant burn).

First Aid

  • Remove clothing and jewellery.
  • Apply cool running water for at least 20 minutes.
  • Cover the burn with a clean cloth and keep the child warm.
  • Seek medical attention.

Prevention Tips

  • Always use a fixed fire screen/guard around wood heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, radiators, electric heaters.
  • Supervise young children at all times when a heater is in use.
  • Do not leave the wood heater door open.
  • Ensure that clothing or furniture is at least 2 meters away from all heaters or wood fires.
  • Never use accelerants to assist in lighting a fire
  • Do not allow children to play near a fire/heater even when it is not in use.
  • Ensure environment around heater is safe – rug corners are not lifting, toys are not lying around etc (tripping often results in burn injury).
  • Do not allow young children to stoke, touch or stand close to heaters and wood fires.
  • Children should not assist in the lighting or maintenance of wood heaters.
  • Clean chimneys and flues professionally every year.
  • You should install a photoelectric smoke alarm in each sleeping area, hallway and living area. Smoke alarms should be supported by a home fire escape plan