A guide to the prevention and management of burns and scalds in children.
A burn is defined as ‘an injury caused by exposure to heat, electrical, chemical, or radioactive agent’ and a scald is a burn which is specifically caused by hot liquid or steam.
Babies and young children are much more at risk to burns than adults as their skin is so much thinner. This means they can suffer deeper burns or scalds in a much quicker timeframe than adults even with liquids or surfaces which are not very hot. The most likely group of people to suffer from a burn or scald are toddlers under the age of two years. These injuries are most likely to occur at home and according to the results of one study (Patterns of burns and scalds in children by Kemp et al) the most common cause of scalds in children under five years was a cup/mug of hot beverage being pulled down on themselves. The most common cause of a contact burn was from touching hair straighteners or irons (42%) and oven hobs (27%). Hot bath water is the most common cause of fatal and severe scalds to young children in Europe – in the UK there are 20 deaths per year purely as a result of a hot bath… Let’s be honest these facts and figures are terrifying and I really am not here to scaremonger but it’s something we should all be really aware of as parents! This blog is here to help so let’s just consider ourselves warned on the consequences and find out how best ways to prevent burns and scalds in our home and how to act if they do occur.
Top tips to prevent burns (and prevention is paramount!!)
- Never hold a baby while preparing or drinking hot drinks. A cup of tea which has been cooled for 15 minutes can still cause a serious scald to a child.
- Don’t use table cloths as toddlers are likely to pull these and if there is hot drinks sitting in top of them they may scald themselves.
- Keep all cups/mugs away from surface edges and out of little arms reach.
- My favourite tip is to set your water thermostat (if you have one) to a maximum of 50°C as water at 60°C can cause a scald in three seconds whereas water at 49°C take ten minutes to cause a significant scald. This means the water coming out of your tap is unlikely to cause a serious injury.
- Do not use hot water bottles or electric blankets in your childrens beds.
- Always keep the iron and its flex out of reach.
- Use a cooker guard and keep microwaves out of reach.
- Try to use the back rings on a hob as preference and keep handles turned in away from reaching hands!
- Be mindful when lifting liquid or hot foods that toddlers or babies could be under your feet!
- Keep matches, lighters, cigarettes and candles all out of reach of children.
- Always use a fireguard and ensure to teach your children about the dangers of fire as early as possible. (A simple ‘ah ah hot’ worked well in our house anytime they got close to the fire or a hot radiator, followed by a swift lift and move if they did not move away immediately – they eventually understood that in this case – no means no.)
Action required and treatment tips!
The advice I will give is purely for the treatment of extremely minor burns – really any child under five years should attend the GP or Hospital (there is a burns unit in Crumlin Childrens hospital in Dublin or any local A&E department) if they have experienced a burn or scald. However this advice may allow you to provide immediate treatment and relief until you can get to the doctor. It is worth noting that the other group of people who should always attend the doctor if they have suffered from a burn is pregnant women.
- Cool the area by running cool or luke warm water over the area immediately AND FOR AT LEAST 15 MINUTES (excuse the cap locks but this is the bit people always miss out – often just doing it for 5 mins or so…If you don’t leave the burn under cool water for the full 15 minutes then the heat will not have been fully dispersed and will continue to burn down further into the layers of skin worsening the wound.)
- Remove any tight clothing or clothing with hot material on it but do not remove anything which has become stuck to the skin.
- Do not coat the burn with any oils, creams or ointments which can worsen burns, instead you can apply some burnshield hydrogel which stabilises the skins temperature, relieves pain and helps to prevent infection. This is available here https://www.wonderbaba.ie/p/burnshield_hygrogel_50ml
- Do not apply any adherent dressings to the burn – instead apply some cling film – in a square shape etc. though not wrapped around a limb or joint. This is handy as it will not adhere to the wound and is usually readily available.
- You can also dress the wound with a special jelonet burn dressing which is for minor burns and place a melolin non adherent pad on top of this. This will also provide pain relief and help to soothe the skin but will not prevent infection.
- Use paracetamol or ibuprofen if appropriate following the dosages recommended by the manufacturer for your age child.
- Visit the GP or hospital for any burn or scald on a child under five years.
I hope you have found this blog helpful and as always please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have through private message on the WonderBaba facebook page or by phoning me at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy on 012600262. All products mentioned are available at WonderBaba.ie