Posts tagged ‘burns’

4 November, 2013

The countdown is on, November 5 here we come!

The big night is nearly upon us and soon the cold night sky will be lit up by spectacular fireworks of all colours, shapes and sizes.

Fireworks show on Independent DayIt’s a family occasion full of whizz-bangs and excitement that keeps everyone entertained, and while many of you will be attending an organised firework display, there will be others who will be holding their own at home. This is why it is a smart move to brush up on the Firework Code – essential reading for adults who are going to be handling fireworks.

Planning a firework display should not be rushed. There’s a lot to consider both before and after the fireworks have been set off! Ask yourself, is your garden big enough for the fireworks you are buying and seriously consider if your garden can cope with having a bonfire? Lighting it too close to a fence or shed could spell disaster. Do you have a safety plan in place in the event of an emergency? Have you set up an appropriate cordon? Young people should watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance and follow the safety rules for using sparklers. Remember, sparklers should not be given to children under five-years-old. All fireworks are explosives which have the potential to cause injury and damage if they are misused. This is why adults should help children and young people understand the dangers and share the important message that fireworks are not toys or missiles.

Each year, RoSPA hears about people being injured by fireworks and the traumatic experiences victims have gone through, including lifelong scarring and years of treatment. This is why it’s important that families ensure that fireworks are handled only by adults and treated with respect.

About half of these injuries happen at family or private parties and about a quarter in the street or other public place. A much smaller proportion – around 10 per cent – of the injuries happen at large public displays. Strictly speaking, attending an organised firework display is the safest option.

A rogue firework exploded from inside Ben's jacket, setting his shirt on fire in the process. Ben has since undergone seven skin grafts and is continuing to receive steroid injections to help stretch and soften the skin.

A rogue firework exploded from inside Ben’s jacket, setting his shirt on fire in the process. Ben has since undergone seven skin grafts and is continuing to receive steroid injections to help stretch and soften the skin.

Amy McCabe, whose son Ben was injured at a street firework display, has called on the public to choose the safer option of attending an organised display. Ben was four-years-old when he was left with permanent scarring after he was hit by a firework at the display held in a residential cul-de-sac in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow.

The rogue firework exploded from inside his jacket, setting his shirt on fire in the process. The firework, which had fallen over in the wet grass after being lit, flew off into the crowd at such speed, that initially spectators were none the wiser. It was not until Ben started screaming in pain that people realised he had been hit. Despite Ben’s jacket being zipped up to his chin moments earlier, the firework had somehow found its way inside. Surgeons told Ben’s mother Amy, 37, that her son would be scarred for life after suffering third degree burns to his chest, neck, under his right arm and behind his left ear. Ben who is now six-years-old has since undergone seven skin grafts and is continuing to receive steroid injections to help stretch and soften the skin.

Data collected across Britain in previous years shows that, on average, around 1,000 people visit A&E for treatment of a firework-related injury in the four weeks around Bonfire Night, with half of the injuries being suffered by under-18s. The minimum age for buying fireworks is 18 across the UK. Only buy fireworks from a reputable retailer and ensure the packaging carries the ‘CE’ mark or is marked with ‘BS 7114’.

RoSPA’s fireworks website – – provides details on UK law, tips for setting up a display and the Firework Code:

  • Plan your fireworks display to make it safe and enjoyable
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
  • Light the firework at arm’s length with a taper and stand well back
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit
  • Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
  • Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

Have a wonderful time and wrap up warm! I hear it might be a chilly one!

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

17 October, 2012

Hair straighteners – hot enough to fry an egg and can scar for life!

When thinking about injuries which occur to children in the home, how many of us have considered the everyday hair straightener as a danger?

Alfie Vance Too Hot to Handle hair straighteners Northern Ireland RoSPA

Alfie Vance was just seven months old when he accidentally fell face first onto a pair of cooling hair straighteners. Within a matter of seconds his delicate skin was burnt between his eyes and on his forehead. Alfie has been left with a permanent scar.

We use them on a daily basis and think nothing of regularly styling our hair to temperatures exceeding 200 degrees; but what happens when these styling devices accidentally come into contact with a child’s skin? Quite frankly, the outcome is horrifying!

A new campaign has been launched this week in Northern Ireland to raise awareness of the dangers hair straighteners can pose to children, causing burns which can require hospital admission and surgical intervention, including plastic surgery.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Home Accident Prevention Northern Ireland (HAPNI) are working in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust on the Too Hot to Handle campaign, funded by the Electrical Safety Council (ESC). It follows a rise in the number of children attending A&E at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children with hair straightener burns.

Figures from the Children’s Hospital show that 17 children aged between three months and nine years attended A&E at the hospital in 2009-10 with hair straightener burns. This represented nine per cent of the 187 children who attended with “thermal injuries” during that year. The average age of the children admitted with hair straightener burns was 18 months.

Nicola Vance, 25, from Northern Ireland, had never really considered hair straighteners to be a risk to her child, that was until an accident occurred leaving her son with a permanent scar.

Alfie Vance Too Hot to Handle hair straighteners Northern Ireland RoSPA

“Alfie was lucky that he didn’t lose his eyes, although he has been scarred for life. If the hair straighteners had been hotter, they would have peeled off his forehead” – Nicola Vance.

On September 8, 2011, Nicola was at home and busy straightening her hair in her bedroom with her son Alfie, then aged seven months, sat beside her on the bed. After switching the hair straighteners off and placing them on a heat resistant mat on the bed, what happened next just took a matter of seconds.

As Alfie tried to move himself along the bed, he fell face first onto the cooling straighteners and was picked up almost immediately by his mother, but a couple of seconds was all it took for Alfie’s delicate skin to be burnt between the eyes and on the forehead. Children’s skin can be 15 times thinner than adults’ skin and while the most common location for a child to sustain a serious hair straightener burn is on their hand, injuries have also been sustained to the head, arm and foot.

Nicola said her son, now 19 months, was lucky the damage caused by the straighteners hadn’t been more serious, although Alfie has been left with a permanent scar between his eyes.

“Alfie was lucky that he didn’t lose his eyes, although he has been scarred for life. If the hair straighteners had been hotter, they would have peeled off his forehead,” she said.

Since the accident, Nicola has ensured that her hair straighteners are switched off straight away and kept in a heat resistant bag, out of the sight and reach of Alfie, in a separate room where he doesn’t have access.

Hair straighteners can take as long as 40 minutes to cool down and are capable of frying an egg, as this video demonstrates:

Remember, it doesn’t always take a flame to burn, but burns caused by hair straighteners ARE preventable!

Ita McErlean, RoSPA’s home safety manager in Northern Ireland

8 October, 2012

Child safety in the kitchen – are you prepared?

With the summer now over and the dark nights drawing in, children are choosing to play indoors more frequently. And while children are a joy to be around, RoSPA hopes that parents are beginning to think about reducing the risks to their children in the home, particularly in the kitchen, where some of the most serious accidents occur.

The kitchen poses many hazards to our little ones and there are many things that parents can do to protect their children from injury. It is important, however, to stress that it is impossible to “childproof” the home – this is a dangerously misleading term implying that 100 per cent safety is achievable.

liquitab style dishwasher and washing machine detergents children injury

Small children can mistake liquitab style dishwasher and washing machine detergents for sweets and ingest them. We encourage families to keep chemical items such as laundry detergents and other products in a lockable cupboard.

Are liquitab detergents safe?

We have noticed a worrying new trend in injuries to children ingesting liquitab style dishwasher and washing machine detergents. If used correctly, these products are completely safe and very effective. Unfortunately, they are also very appealing to small children who can mistake them for sweets and ingest them.

We were recently alerted to cases in which children were admitted to hospital in Glasgow as a result of the ingestion of liquid detergent from capsules. In addition to children swallowing detergent, doctors have also previously raised awareness of the risk of injury to young children who get liquid detergent in their eyes. The safe storage of all household chemicals is absolutely crucial and we encourage families to keep chemical items such as laundry detergents and other products in a lockable cupboard.

How reliable are child-resistant caps on products?

Parents should never transfer dangerous products from one container to another. Although the law requires child-resistant closures on medicine bottles and other hazardous substances for domestic use, these are absolutely not childproof.  The aim of such caps is to provide a little time in which parents may spot that a child is accessing a potential poison and intervene to prevent the substance being ingested. Unfortunately, the weakness of the cap is that some children are actually quite adept at opening them, often when asked by an older person struggling to find the necessary finger power and dexterity to open it themselves!

Be alert to the risk of scalds and burns!

child safety RoSPA kitchen liquitab scalds burns

Children should not be left unsupervised in the kitchen at any time, but the use of oven guards can assist in ensuring that the environment is safer for them when parents are cooking.

Burns to children’s hands from oven doors is also a very important issue in the kitchen.  Whilst there are very strict controls in place limiting the surface temperatures of oven doors, they can still get very hot. Children’s skin is thinner than adult skin and as such they are more susceptible to injury here, especially as they are naturally inclined to explore their surroundings by touching what they see.

What many parents may not be aware of is that there are some very effective products on the marketplace that can be placed over oven doors to guard against these serious hazards.  Children should not be left unsupervised in the kitchen at any time, but the use of oven guards can assist in ensuring that the environment is safer for them when parents are cooking.

Parents should arrange storage areas carefully so that heavy items are not kept on high shelves. Extra care should be taken with hot water, tea, coffee or soup to avoid the risk of young children at their feet getting scalded. Knives and scissors should be kept in good condition and out of reach of children, as should matches and lighters, and pan handles should be turned inward so that children cannot reach them and pull them over (cordless kettles or those with a coiled lead are recommended so that children cannot pull on them).

How safe is the glass in your home?

Finally, think about the glass in your interior doors and patio doors. Building regulations define “critical areas” where safety glazing is mandatory. Areas such as doors and low-level glazing where a child might accidentally fall against the glass always require safety glazing.

RoSPA is aware of many children being seriously injured by sliding on smooth kitchen floors into glass doors. In one incident, a child slid head-first through a patio door and narrowly avoided being decapitated as the glass broke into a large “guillotine” shaped shard.  Ordinary glass is dangerous – particularly at low level – because it breaks into these large, jagged pieces which can cause serious injury.

If you do not have safety glass fitted in these areas then protective film can be used to protect smaller panes. Larger panes should be constructed from laminated or toughened glass which is stronger and if it does break, it will do so into smaller, less jagged pieces.  RoSPA advises not letting children play near glass at all and to ensure that glazed areas of homes are well lit.

For further advice, visit

Philip LeShirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser

15 July, 2011

A childhood scald can be a life sentence

We were recently made aware of a good video by North Bristol NHS Trust called “Hot Drinks Harm”, produced to highlight the scalding risk to children posed by hot tea and coffee.

Every 90 seconds someone in the UK is burned or scalded in an accident. That’s quite a shocking statistic, particularly when you realise just how serious it can be.

Most people are well aware that a scald or burn is extremely painful when it happens. However, not many know that a serious scald in childhood is a life sentence for the individual – and one that can be easily avoided.

It’s relatively well known that hot bath water is the number one cause of serious scalding injuries among young children. Every day, at least one child under five is admitted to hospital with serious scalds caused by bath water. Thankfully, the fitting of thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) is reducing the incidence of bath-time scalds.

Less well known, though, is the fact that many children go to hospital each day with scalds caused by hot drinks.

Under-fives make up six per cent of the population but receive a much larger proportion of scald injuries. Given children’s smaller size, they are more damaged, proportionally, than adults by the same amount of hot water. Children’s skin – and particularly babies’ skin – can be up to 15 times thinner than adults’, making it far more delicate and susceptible to damage. Did you know that a hot drink can still scald a child up to 15 minutes after being made?

So what are the costs?

Scalds make up around 70 per cent of all burns injuries to children. From a purely financial point of view, the cost to the NHS is an average of £1,850 per child scalded – in really severe cases, up to £250,000.

However, the implications of a childhood scald go far beyond monetary costs: a burn injury takes seconds, but stays for life. A child who receives a burn or scald can look forward to years of painful treatment; and in the most serious cases, they face hundreds of operations to release the scar tissue as they grow.

With serious burns, it’s not just a case of patching up a child with protective bandages and antiseptic – skin grafts are required, and a toddler may need further grafts until they stop growing 15 or 20 years later.

The psychological impact of a burn injury is also immense, particularly when children reach their teenage years and have to cope with their scarring alongside the usual teenage image and self-confidence issues. Some children are disfigured for life, with their parents experiencing a prolonged sense of guilt.

Support is available for families who have experienced scald injuries; but it’s far better to prevent them occurring in the first place.

What can be done?

A few simple precautions can prevent a lifetime of pain:

  • Don’t hold a hot drink and a child at the same time
  • Never leave young children alone in the bathroom
  • Put hot drinks out of reach and away from the edges of tables and worktops – and beware of tablecloths! A drink in the middle of the table can quickly be a danger to a toddler grabbing at the edge of a tablecloth
  • Encourage the use of a coiled flex or a cordless kettle
  • Keep small children out of the kitchen whenever possible
  • Run the domestic hot water system at 46°C or fit a thermostatic mixing valve to taps
  • When running a bath turn the cold water on first and always test the water temperature with your elbow before letting a child get into the bath or shower
  • Always use rear hotplates and turn the panhandles away from the front of the cooker
  • Keep hot irons, curling tongs and hair straighteners out of reach even when cooling down – or use a heat-proof bag.

We need to make people understand that these are largely preventable injuries, emphasising that the cost of treatment is far greater than the cost of prevention. Nobody wants their child to come to harm, so in most cases, a little education goes a very long way.

Jane Trobridge, home safety officer for RoSPA

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