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National Burns Awareness Week

As part of National Burns Awareness Week, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is encouraging the public to be prepared for an emergency. Burn injuries happen in seconds, but can change a person’s life forever. The hospital says the majority of burns occur in and around the home and asks parents to keep their children safe by making them aware of the presence of potential burn hazards.

Some important advice for parents:

  • Be careful when cooking: keep children out of the kitchen if possible. The kitchen is full of potential fire hazards – food left unsupervised on the stove or in the oven or microwave, grease spills, electrical appliances and dish towels near burners. Hot oil and porridge are particularly hazardous.
  • Don’t neglect maintenance: chimneys, fireplaces, and wood or coal stoves should be cleaned often.
  • Electrical appliances and cords: make sure your electrical appliances (such as ovens, stoves, heaters, kettles, toasters and irons) are in good condition, without loose or tattered cords or plugs or worn insulation. Do not overload circuits and ensure that there is no direct contact with power lines or other live wires. Use only good-quality paraffin stoves and heaters – they are less likely to explode.
  • Kettles: kettles are ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Nearly 70% of all burn admissions at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital can be attributed to this seemingly safe device. Keep kettles and kettle cords out of reach of children.
  • Microwaves: be careful of the high temperatures of containers and fluids after used in a microwave. Also steer clear of boiling eggs in a microwave – they often explode on removal and can cause serious facial and eye damage.
  • Fire gels: fire gels should be used with caution. Pouring gel fuel into a device that is not completely cool may result in a fire or injury, therefore it should never be poured directly from the container onto flames. Burning fire gel sticks to skin and is difficult to extinguish, causing prolonged burning with severe scarring.
  • Cover electrical outlets: Make sure to cover all electrical outlets with outlet covers so that children aren’t tempted to play with them and stick things like fingers or toys into them. Illegal and make-shift electrical wires lead to devastating electric injuries (often leading to finger and hand amputations).
  • Be safe if you smoke: lit cigarettes or matches can be an ignition source. Avoid smoking in bed and use child-resistant lighters.
  • Use candles safely: Blow out candles before leaving a room and keep them out of reach of children, away from curtains and furniture and make sure that they are in sturdy holders.
  • Chemicals: know when the chemicals you use are a potential hazard. Use cabinet locks on cabinets that contain chemicals and always store chemicals in their original containers. Do not store in milk or plastic containers. Beware of hair colourants and chemical hair straightening treatments – it can cause severe chemical burns in children.
  • Be prepared: Teach children the hazards of fires and educate them on how to avoid foreseeable dangers. Be prepared for an emergency by creating a fire escape plan with the whole family.

The Burns Unit at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is the only specialised paediatric Burns Unit within a dedicated children’s hospital in Africa. Every year the hospital treats approximately 3 500 children for burns.

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