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
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.
There are plenty of reasons in February to get into the kitchen and have a go at rustling up some food for friends and family. So whether it’s a Chinese banquet, some flipping fun or trying to impress a date, this month is a good time to think about kitchen and cooking safety.
Children and cooking
Children love helping out in the kitchen, especially if you are making things like pancakes, but according to RoSPA 67,000 children get injured in kitchen accidents every year. Of these 43,000 are aged between 0-4 years.
Try not to hurry and don’t get distracted – this is how most kitchen fires start
Use the rear hotplates on the hob and turn pan handles away from the front of the cooker, this reduces the chance of child pulling something hot off the cooker
If you are using the oven keep children away. Children can get injured from hot oven doors or from steam and heat as the door is opened
Make sure the oven door is closed firmly after you have finished using it
Keep hot liquids clear of children and never hold a child while you have a hot drink in your hand. What seems lukewarm to adult can be hot enough to scald a child
Look out behind you – children – especially very young children or their toys can easily be a trip hazard in the kitchen
Be careful when you are cooking with oil or fats as they can spit and burn you or a child
Oil and fat can easily catch fire, careful not to overfill a pan with oil or splash it when you add food
If a pan does catch fire don’t try and move it, never use water, turn the heat off if you can, get out and call 999
The kitchen is the highest fire risk area in the home– up to 60% of fires start in the kitchen. It’s not only due to the cooking it’s also because this area of the home has a high concentration of domestic appliances.
Make sure hobs and grills pans are clean, the build up of fat can cause a fire
Take care not to lean over hot hobs or gas flames
Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob
Don’t cook if you have been drinking alcohol
Take care when cooking with hot oil – it can easily overheat and catch fire
Never fill a pan more than one-third full of fat or oil
Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil
If the oil starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool
Most people have experienced the smoke alarm going off when cooking. It can be annoying – more annoying than Piers Morgan apparently. It’s not unusual for people to remove the batteries. In 19% of fires where a smoke alarm failed to activate it was because the batteries were dead or had been removed.
If this is the case in your household it may be time to double check you have the right alarms in the right places.
Is your smoke alarm too close to the kitchen? If it goes off when you are cooking it might be
Consider a heat alarms for the kitchen. These will not be activated by cooking fumes but react to the temperature increase caused by fire
You can never have too many smoke or heat detectors, as a minimum you should have one on every level of your home. Consider additional alarms for other rooms especially if there are lots of electrical in the room – such as teens bedroom
Help your alarms help you, test them – ideally once a week, replace the batteries once a year unless they are mains connected or a ten year alarm
Plan your escape route- just in case
Make sure you have the right alarms for your needs. For example if you are hard of hearing you can get alarms which have vibrating pads or flashing lights to alert you
If you need advice take a look at your local fire and rescue service website. Details of UK fire services can be found on the CFOA website. They often have guides and advice, even home safety checklists for you to follow. There will also be details of any services they may offer to help with home safety. This could be anything from arranging a home safety check to an open day event at a local station.