In the UK children account for about half of all burn injuries. The overwhelming majority of these are due to scald injuries – 180 children attend A&E each day with scald injuries due to hot drinks alone. Other common causes of injury in children include burns due to direct contact with a hot object, for example radiators and hair straighteners. Burns injuries from flames, electrical current and chemicals are less common but can be very serious in terms of damage done when they do occur.
As these types of injuries are common it is important that you’re equipped with skills to know what to do if your child is burnt. Joanne Atkins, a member of BAPRAS and a burns specialist plastic surgeon, offers tips on what to do in this situation.
Five top tips for parents if your child is burnt
- Call / shout for help whilst quickly assessing the situation. Approach the child as safely as possible; try not to expose yourself to danger. Move the child away from the injuring agent, to a safe area.
- Stop the burning process, for example extinguish / smother flames, remove the child’s clothing (unless it is actually stuck to the surface of the skin itself), which will also allow you to see the extent of the injury.
- Do not delay in providing first aid. Cool the injured area as a matter of urgency.
Remember, heat is retained in the body’s tissue even after direct contact with a hot substance has stopped. This remaining heat continues to damage the skin and tissue, and worsens the injury.
Place the injured area under cool running water as quickly as possible, for between 10-20 minutes. This will directly reduce the remaining heat in the tissue, limiting the severity of the injury and providing useful pain relief.
Try to keep the child warm in general, whilst cooling the injured part. Children can become hypothermic very quickly.
Never apply ice to an injury; this can damage tissue just as effectively as excessive heat.
- Cover the injured area with a clean, non-stick dressing.
Cling film, readily available in most domestic settings, is an excellent temporary dressing to apply to a burn wound; it relieves pain at the site of injury, does not stick to the wound surface, and allows easy observation of the wound by medical professionals. Cool, damp towels or cool packs can be laid over it for added analgesia and comfort.
- Seek medical advice in all cases of flame, electrical or chemical injury.
Ask for advice where the wound is too large to be dressed by a standard sticking plaster-sized dressing at home, or if in any doubt about the injury or wound.
Advice from the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) For more information about BAPRAS visit: www.bapras.org.uk