Burns happen in the blink of an eye, but their impact can have a devastating impact on families, warns Dr Samantha Marchant, a medical officer at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
National Burns Week, which was held from Saturday May 6 to Friday May 12, raises awareness about the hazards of burns and how to prevent them.
Parents need to be aware of the danger posed by candles, paraffin stoves, and open fires especially now as colder weather sets in, says Dr Marchant.
Two-year-old Nathan Adams* was admitted to the hospital in April to after suffering first-degree burns in an accident at home.
“He had lost his footing while standing at the kitchen table, and in trying to regain his balance, pulled on the cord of the kettle that had just boiled. The hot water fell onto the top of his head, right arm, chest, and back,” said his mother, Natasha Adams*.
Ms Adams* grabbed her son and immediately put him in the shower under cold water.
“We rushed to the hospital, where he is now being treated,” she said, adding that Nathan would receive a skin graft as his shoulder was not fully recovering.
“I couldn’t sleep for days after it happened because it just kept replaying in my mind. If he does not respond to the skin graft, he will need to be readmitted to the hospital,” she said.
Sister Revona Goosen, an operational manager at the hospital, said it was important for parents to stay calm if their child suffered a burn. “While waiting for an ambulance, remove clothing from the wound. If clothing is stuck to the skin, do not pull but rather wait for assistance.”
Run cold water over the area for 20-to-30 minutes and keep the child warm to prevent shock and give them plenty of fluids to drink.
“It is important to remember that children’s skin is thinner than adults’, and their skin burns at lower temperatures more deeply, making them susceptible to harsher burns with long-term effects.”
ChildSafe, a child-injury-prevention unit based at the children’s hospital, says there are several precautions one can take to prevent burns.
• Turn pot handles away when cooking.
• Never hold a child while cooking at the stove.
• Keep kettle cords and other electrical wiring out of children’s reach.
• Place matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
• Always check the temperature of food and drink before serving to young children.
• Always place hot liquids and food in the centre of the table, using place mats instead of tablecloths which are easy to pull.
• Never pass hot liquids and food over a child’s head.
• Keep all heaters out of reach of children.
• Install smoke alarms for early detection of fires in homes.
• Blow out candles before you leave the room or before you go to sleep. Candles can be mounted in sand in a glass jar.
• Avoid illegal electrical connections and overloading multiple plugs as these can overheat causing sparks and fires.
• Run cold water before hot water.
• Never leave open fires unattended.
• Never store flammable equipment such as gas or paraffin stoves, which are highly combustible, near any heat.
Fire in your home
• Warn people inside the house to get out safely.
• Help people to get out of the building and stay out of harm’s way.
• If there is a lot of smoke, crawl out below the smoke to escape the fire.
• Where possible, have more than one exit from your house, with clear routes to the door.
• When your clothing is on fire, “stop, drop and roll” to douse the flames.
Treating a minor burn
• Remove the patient from the source of danger.
• Do not put any oily substances on the burn; instead, cool the burn area with running tap water for approximately 20 minutes.
• Cover the burn with cling film or plastic.
• Take the patient to the nearest clinic or hospital; seek medical attention.
For more information on the prevention of burns, visit www.childsafe.org.za. For a medical emergency, call 10177. Call the City’s general emergency hotline at 107.
* Names have been changed.