In the last year, the Trauma Unit at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital treated 1 117 children for burn injuries. Eight hundred of these were from hot water and scalding liquids such as tea.
August is Child Safety Month and throughout the course of the month child safety advocacy organisation ChildSafe will be raising awareness on how to prevent and treat burns among children.
To mark the launch of the campaign, Childsafe has released a list of the top ten ways to prevent burns. These simple tips will protect children and may avoid devastating tragedies that could have life-changing consequences.
Childsafe’s Top Ten Tips for Preventing Burns
1. Be vigilant with children around heaters, stoves, candles and other open flames such as candles, paraffin lamps, portable stoves, braais and wood or coal fires
2. Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove
3. Place hot liquids and food at the centre of the table
4. Always test the water temperature with your elbow before placing a child in the bath
5. Place kettles and cords at the back of the counter or table
6. Teach children from as young as possible about the difference between the hot and cold taps
7. Avoid overloading power points, and don’t run electrical wires under carpets
8. Cover unused power outlets with safety plugs
9. Never hold a child while cooking on the stove
10. Immediately extinguish wood and coal fires with water, and paraffin, oil or petrol fires with sand or a fire extinguisher, once you’ve finished using them
ChildSafe also offers some simple first-aid steps which can be taken if a child is burned:
1. Remove the child from the source of danger
2. Cool a burn under cold water for a long time
3. Protect the injury with a clean cloth or plastic wrap
4. Seek advice immediately from a medical professional or emergency services
“Burns are not only related to fire. Scalding from boiling or very hot liquids is also classified as a burn — and these occur more frequently than fire-related burns. If a child does survive the incident, more serious injuries can require a lifetime of rehabilitation and medical attention, says Yolande Baker, ChildSafe Executive Director. “Children can get burned at any time of the year, but we see a dramatic increase in the number of children treated for burns in the colder months, with stoves, heaters and open fires used to heat homes.”
Children under the age of five are most susceptible, with their innate curiosity about the world, and their growing independence. “That’s why it’s important to teach them from a very early age how they can avoid getting burned.”
Baker continues: “Every injury caused by burns is a tragedy. But these injuries can be averted with extra vigilance and monitoring from parents and care-givers. As much as children can be burned in many ways, there are also many ways to prevent children from getting burned. There are ways to make homes more safe, and ways to remind children every day of the dangers of being near to flames or boiling liquids. But it’s something that needs to be remembered every day.”
Month long awareness campaign
ChildSafe has planned a month-long programme of events and campaigns focused on preventing and treating burns. Included in these is:
- A burns exhibition at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital until 20 August
- An educational day at Childsafe’s offices for the children of the Kuyakhana Primary School from Cross Roads – with presentations from Working On Fire.
- Weekly educational sessions every Friday in August for community caregivers and the public on burn prevention and treatment at the Childsafe offices.
- A burns exhibition at the Langa clinic from 21 August.
- An interactive burn prevention and treatment seminar for health and community workers on 23 August at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
Child Safety Month runs throughout August. For more information about the events and information sessions during the month, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or check the organisation’s website www.childsafe.org.za.