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Prevent burns this winter

Written by Allison Cooper

Just as winter brings with it the need to keep warm, it also increases the risk of burn injuries from candles, fires, stoves, heaters and boiling water.Flame burns can be devastating injuries.

“Burn injuries increase dramatically during winter and parents and caregivers need to be extra careful to ensure their own and their children’s safety,” says Doctor Gary Dos Passos.

He is the Head of the Burns Unit at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH) and an executive committee member of the Burn Society of South Africa.

While accidental fires are inevitable, many burn injuries can be prevented with vigilance, proper adult supervision and safer practices.

“Flame burns are devastating injuries with substantial lifelong physical and psychosocial consequences for the affected survivors and their families,” says Dr Dos Passos.

How to prevent burns

Burn injuries can be prevented around the home. Here are some tips:

  • Keep matches, lighters, accelerants (petrol and paraffin), candles, gas and paraffin lamps and heaters out of children’s reach.
  • Do not throw accelerants onto flames. This is extremely dangerous.
  • Do not let children play near paraffin or gas lamps or heaters.
  • Do not hold a child while cooking or leave children unsupervised in or near the kitchen.
  • Ensure the kettle is out of reach. Buy a cordless kettle if you can.
  • Do not carry urns or pots of boiling water around near children.
  • Turn pot handles away from the front of the stove.
  • Put candles in a deep glass bottle with sand at the bottom so that they will go out if they fall over.
  • Do not cover fires with sand. The heat stays in the sand for hours.
  • Put cold water in the bath first, and then add hot water. Always test the bath water with your elbow first.

If you sustain a burn injury involving flames, stop, drop to the ground and roll to put out the flames.

“Heat from a fire, hot water or electrical burn will continue to burn the tissue long after the contact is removed.

“Stop the burning by keeping the burnt body part under cold running tap water for 20 minutes. Do not use ice, ice water, butter or any oil-based product on a burn,” says Dr Dos Passos.

For more burn prevention tips, visit www.childsafe.org.za