What you need to know to avoid burns in children. Tips for tired multiple birth parents.

burnt hand caused by heater

Author:  Dr Bronwyn Griffin

How tired parents can avoid burns in children

It’s 5:30 am, you have woken up for the 9th time to your babies.  You know that your day needs to kick start now.  Your older two children need to get ready for kindy and school. You push the “boil” button on the kettle to obtain the much needed first caffeine infused drink of the day.  You change the babies nappies, make drink, seat yourself on cosy corner of couch and set up for the feed. Whilst taking your first sip of that glorious caffeinated solution your 8 month old twin suddenly lunges for your coffee whilst breastfeeding. Your coffee goes all over you and worse still, all over the baby. Chaos commences!

The number one cause of serious burns in children

Hot drinks and foods remain the number one cause of serious burns to young children.  This has prompted a warning for Queenslanders to be extra careful with their hot winter beverages this year.  Last winter, 53 children were treated at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane for scalds caused by hot beverages and foods including soups, stews and noodles. These burns ranged from first-degree superficial burns to third-degree full-thickness burns, with hands being the body part most commonly injured.

Families are also urged to always supervise children around domestic heaters

In winter 2017, 17 children were treated for burns injuries caused by contact with a gas, wood or electric heater – that’s almost twice as many as the previous winter. In total, the hospital saw a total of 216 children with burns injuries between 1 June and 31 August  2017.  The age group most at risk of burns are children aged between one and three years old, who account for more than 50 per cent of all winter burns patients at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

burns in children
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Young children are not aware of the dangers associated with heaters. Parents must remain vigilant and always supervise them when heaters are in use.    In many cases the burns we see are a result of a child touching the grate or metal casing surrounding the heater, rather than the heating element itself.  You need to remain hypervigilant to ensure those multiple sets of little fingers don’t touch the metal casing surrounding your heater.

The most dangerous place for toddlers is actually in their own home. With the most dangerous rooms being the kitchen, bathroom and living area. It is highly advised to keep the kitchen a no toddler/crawler zone with gates and barriers. At no time put your toddler up on the kitchen bench, especially while meal prepping! The same barriers apply for around the metal casing on and around fireplaces. By taking these precautions you should be able to reward yourself with that caffeinated reward (and maybe even a little space!).

how to prevent burns

Tips at home to help prevent burns in children

Although we acknowledge caffeine is a much needed friend to parents (especially those multiple birth parents!), parents really do need  to take extra care when serving or drinking hot drinks. Always cool it down with a bit of cool water, use a lid and preferably only drink out of reach of a toddler.  Do not walk around with hot drinks when young children are around ­– and possibly under feet.

It’s also important to place cups and dishes away from the edges of tables and benches.  Turn saucepan handles inward away from the edge of the stove so curious little hands cannot reach them.

Children aged one to three are most at risk of sustaining these types of burns injuries.  This is due to their increased mobility and sense of curiosity. They are also the most unaware of the dangers that are involved.

Serious burns can occur very quickly and are extremely painful.  They often leading to lengthy treatment and permanent scarring. In addition to the hot beverages hot-water taps, stoves, coals and ashes, and boiling water from saucepans and kettles are also included in the top 10 causes of burns in children in the winter months.

burns in children tips

First aid treatment for burns in children or adults

When an injury cannot be avoided it is really important that parents understand they can dramatically reduce the severity and pain of a burn.  They must act quickly and administer the correct first aid.  The best first-aid treatment for a burn is to place the injured area under cool running water for 20 minutes. Seek medical treatment immediately by phoning 000. If you remember one thing from this article it is that you must do the correct first aid!

While it is ideal to apply first aid immediately.  If running water is not available at the scene, it is still beneficial to apply cold running water up to three hours after the injury. After running cool water over the burn for 20 minutes, cover it with clear plastic wrap (if available) or a clean cloth and keep the patient warm. Never use ice, oil, butter or ointments on a burn as this can further damage the skin.

The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital treated more than 1,300 children for burns injuries in 2017. An increase of almost 30 per cent on the previous year. Of this number, one third of these children required surgery for their injuries.

Dr Bronwyn Griffin

Dr Bronwyn Griffin, PhD,  FCENA

Senior Research Fellow, QUT

Clinical Research Manager

Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research


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