Glass Front Fireplace Safety


Contact Burn Injuries from Glass-Fronted Gas Fireplaces: Information for Pediatricians

Glass fronted gas fireplaces are associated with a significant number of preventable burn injuries in toddlers each year. These burn injuries require painful wound care and rehabilitation. The end result can be scarring that interferes with normal function as well as psychological after-effects.FireplaceDragon

The following data and research support the problem

  • Burn injuries from contact with the hot fireplace glass fronts are more frequent than previously assumed.
    • A 5-year, multicenter retrospective study involving 17 burn centers in North America documented 402 injuries (mean 80/year) from contact with glass fronted gas fireplaces (paper accepted for publication in Journal of Burn Care and Research). Single center burn studies have documented between 4 and 12 annual burn injuries.1-4
      • Information in this study is only representative of 17 out of 123 burn centers, so the number of documented burn injuries is likely even greater.
    • This rate compares to 20 times the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s national estimate of approximately 4 per year.5
  • The most frequent site of injury is the hand. Hand burns are difficult to treat and often need extensive rehabilitative care. The hand, most often the palmer surface, is involved in over 95% of these injuries.1-4 From 3-11% of these hand burns need surgery.1-4 Successful outcome often involves occupational therapy, splinting, or casting of the arm to enable functional healing.1-4,6-8 The majority of these grafted burns will need reconstructive surgery in the future in order for the child to have use of their hands.
  • Care of hand burns often requires that the children and their families travel to a burn center. Many of these injuries require specialized care. As there are only approximately 123 burn centers in the United States, this specialized treatment can require travel, sometimes outside of the state. The multicenter study found that an average of three follow-up visits were required, amounting to a substantial time commitment and financial burden.
  • Burns can occur instantly upon contact with the glass front.
    • The mechanism of these injuries often involves the toddler toppling into the glass front and, lacking the coordination to extricate themselves from the glass, they sustain more severe burns.4
    • The glass fronts exceed the temperature associated with instantaneous third degree burns.6 The glass front temperatures can exceed 1300 F (704 C). The temperature resulting in an instantaneous third degree burn is 172 C.5,6 They remain hot up to one hour after they are extinguished.

Role for you as a Healthcare Provider

  • Ask all families with children beginning to become mobile if they have a gas fireplace in their home.
  • If they have one, make sure to purchase and install a safety barrier to use at all times for your gas-burning fireplace
  • Be aware that toddlers and young children are at significant risk for burns from the hot glass front if the fireplace is burning
  • Make sure supervision and awareness continues for gas fireplaces at resorts or when visiting another home