Falling Temperatures Raise Burn Risks

By Lisa Nickchen, Editorial Contributor

Even in Florida, cooler temperatures come with heightened burn risks — especially for children.

Beginning in late autumn, the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children Pediatric Burn Clinic sees an uptick in injuries from two primary sources — fire pits and hot chocolate, says Jennifer Quilty, DNP, ARNP, a manager and nurse practitioner at the clinic. Fireplaces and portable heaters also can pose dangers 

Many children and parents don’t realize that ashes from fire pits may still be hot the next day. Covering the ashes with sand or dirt not only hides the danger from view, but also can hold dangerous heat in even longer, says Quilty. The walk-in clinic sees dozens of children each year with burns from fire pits. They range from foot and hand burns caused from children walking or falling onto hot ashes, to burns from flying embers or falls into active fires. She recommends that parents and other caregivers enforce a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires — and space heaters too.

Hot liquids can burn like fire, and adults must be watchful when kids are around cool-weather favorites such as hot chocolate. Scald burns, often from hot chocolate, are frequently the result of younger children pulling the hot liquid off a counter or table, or older children spilling it in their laps, says Quilty.

Regardless of how they occur, burns require prompt medical attention, she says. If you are unsure about the severity of a burn, go to the nearest ER or call 911 for immediate assessment. 


  • About 250,000 children in the U.S., ages 0-17, receive burns severe enough to require medical attention each year.
  • About 40 percent of these are scalds from spilled food and beverages.
  • Scalds are the cause of most burns in children under age 5.

Source: The Burn Foundation