Burns prevention during winter

As the weather gets colder the risk of burns gets higher.

With children exposed to heaters, fireplaces and hot food and drink winter is when kids are at the highest risk of suffering a burn.

Last winter, almost 400 children were treated at both The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick for burn injuries, with the majority of burns caused by hot drinks and foods, including soups and noodles.

These injuries are potentially very serious and can cause lifelong scarring, especially if not treated correctly. Ten month old George and his family know this all too well.

Last month George suffered severe burns to his hands after he attempted to climb on his family’s gas fireplace - it was the first time they had turned it on since last winter.

George underwent a number of surgeries to clean his wound, eventually his arm was put in to a cast to let it heal.

George will continue to have treatment for his burns in our outpatient clinic but his mother Amy said she hoped other families wouldn’t have to go through the same experience.

“Fire safety is so important because these accidents can happen so quickly,” she said.

“An understanding of fire safety is essential so you can be prepared in case of an emergency, however it is equally as important to educate children to understand what can be potentially dangerous to them.” 

Head of Kids Health, Suzanne Wicks said correct first-aid as soon as possible is vital.

“Burns are some of the most common childhood injuries,” she said.

“Toddlers are most at risk simply because they are curious and they move quickly and unpredictably, gaining access to hot items or surfaces before an adult can intervene. The majority of burn incidents are preventable.”

Mrs Wicks said the only proven effective first aid for burns is 20 minutes of cool running water.

“If a burn occurs, the first step in treatment should always be cool running water.”  

“Using cool running water on the burn up to three hours after the incident can reduce the thickness of the burn as well as the time a burn will take to heal.”

How you can prevent scalds in children

o Supervise young children at all times when they are in or around the kitchen and bathroom.

o Keep hot food and drinks and all kitchen appliances out of reach of young children.

o Take care when serving or walking with hot drinks when young children are around.

o Check the temperature of the water before putting a young child in the bath. How you can prevent other common burns in children

o Do not throw aerosols into a campfire or add accelerants of any type.

o Always supervise children near a campfire.

o Keep all electrical appliances which heat up out of reach of children, including heaters, kettles, irons and hair straighteners. Unplug after use and store away from children.

o Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or where children can’t reach them.

o Install a heat resistant guard around heaters or fireplaces and secure to the wall or floor.

o Only use a treadmill when young children are not in the room, install a safety guard around it and unplug after use.

o Closely supervise children around barbecues and do not use flammable liquids. o Install smoke alarms on all levels of your home and close to bedrooms.

If your child has suffered a burn

o Use cool running water on the burn for 20 minutes.

o Remove clothing and jewellery, if possible.

o Call 000 or seek medical help if you are unsure.

o Never use ice, iced water, cream, gel, toothpaste or butter on a burn as they can make the burn worse.