Today is National Burn Awareness Day an awareness campaign from the Children’s Burns Trust. CFOA along with fire and rescue services throughout the UK support this campaign in order help reduce the number of burns and scalds which occur each year.
Many of these incidents are preventable, but in some cases they lead to injuries which can require years of treatment as well as dealing with the psychological impact of scars. Mark Cashin, CFOA Home Safety Lead said ““Burns don’t only cause physical wounds, they cause emotional scars too: to both those who suffer the burns and to those who feel they may have been in some way responsible.”
Most burn injuries occur in the home with children and the elderly most at risk. Both groups have delicate skin, a baby’s skin is 15 times thinner than an adults and as we age the skin once again thins. Some changes in behaviour may help reduce the risks of these injuries.
Protecting the young
Hot drinks are the most common cause of scald injury in children. A hot drink even after 15 minutes may still be hot enough to scald a child – so an adult’s perception of a cooled hot drink may still be a danger to a small child. 288 children a month have scald injuries from hot liquids which are serious enough to need specialised treatment from the NHS Burns Service.
- Make sure you don’t nurse or carry a child whilst you have a hot drink in your hand
- Make sure you leave hot drinks well out of reach – high up and away from the edge
- Hot drinks should be kept on a sturdy secure surface- not a table that can be tipped or on a tablecloth that may be pulled by curious hands
- Avoid carrying or walking around with hot/warm liquids if children are running around your feet
- Don’t warm baby bottles in the microwave – this can cause hotspots in the milk which won’t be apparent when you test the milk on the back of your wrist
If you attend playgroups with small children consider raising awareness of this issue there. This case study from the Child Accident Prevention Trust ( CAPT) – Developing a parent led hot drinks pledge shows how raising some awareness and making simple changes can keep children safer.
Young children don’t know to pull away from heat so hot surfaces also pose a risk and can cause serious injury. It can also be confusing for a small child as some surfaces are not always hot – for example a radiator may have been touched safely all year when the central heating was off.
- Surfaces such as an oven will remain hot for a while after it has been used. Never leave children unsupervised in the kitchen
- Radiators can be hot enough to burn – radiator covers can protect young children from burns
- Don’t forget the pipework – if you have exposed hot water pipes you can cover them with insulating material
- Small electrical items as irons and hair straighteners can take a long time to cool down make they are well out reach (including the cords so they can’t be pulled down)
Protecting older people
In older people the pattern of injury is very similar to that of young children. Scalds caused by hot drinks are quite common.
- Make sure you can comfortably carry a hot drink, if you are unsteady on your feet or prone to falling avoid carry hot drinks in a cup or mug, it may be easier carry it in a flask.
- If the kettle is hard to lift consider using a smaller and lighter travel kettle or a kettle cradle to pour the hot water
- Make sure walking routes are clear of any trip hazards
Again the advice for young children in relation to hot surfaces can also be applied to older people so it is worth considering if radiator covers and fire guards are needed. Older people may not have the reactions or strength to pull away from a hot surface quick enough to avoid a burn or if they are unsteady inadvertently reach for a hot surface to steady themselves.
Both young and old can be scalded by hot water from taps
- Run baths carefully add the hot water after the cold
- Install thermostatic mixing valves in all hot water outlets
- Lower the water temperature on your boiler
The correct way to treat a burn or scald
If the worst does happen and someone is burnt or scalded good and appropriate first aid can reduce the recovery time and severity of the injury.