Tips to keep children safe from burn injuries during winter

Red Cross War Memorial Childrens Hospital

Children are at greater risk of suffering burns during winter, and parents and child-carers need to be extra alert to the threat, says
the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

Last year, the hospital treated 880 children for burns, the most common (715 children) were caused by hot liquids, followed by fires (55 cases). A further 57 children were treated for touching very hot surfaces such as heaters and hotplates on stoves.

“Most burn injuries can be avoided,” says Yolande Baker, executive director of ChildSafe, the hospital’s injury-prevention unit. She says most burns happen in the home, specifically the kitchen.

“A first step to preventing burns is to make sure that the home environment is safe. Children are not always able to know when something is dangerous, so parents can start by checking every room in the house for possible burn risks to children.”

In the kitchen, that means making sure kettle cords are out of a child’s reach.

“Kettles are a major cause of hot-water burns, which is traumatic and can be debilitating for the child,” says Ms Baker.

There are several things you can do to keep yourself and your children safe while staying warm this winter:

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 table cloths 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 to detect fires in the home early.

Blow out candles before you leave the room or before you go to sleep.

Avoid illegal electrical connections, and don’t overload plug sockets.

Run cold water before hot water.

Never leave open fires unattended. Put out a fire with dry sand.

Never store highly combustible substances, such as paraffin, near a heat source.

If there is a fire inside your home:

Warn people inside the house to get out safely.

Help people to get out 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.

What to do in case of a minor burn:

Remove the patient from the source of danger.

Cool the burn area with running tap water for at least 5 minutes.

Cover the burn with a clean cloth or clean plastic.

Take the patient to the nearest clinic or hospital to see a doctor.

For more information on prevention of burns, visit www.childsafe.org.za