Children are at greater risk of burn injury around the Guy Fawkes holiday which is celebrated with fireworks on 5 November each year.
Burn injuries is one of the most common and devastating forms of trauma and have the potential to cause death, lifelong scarring, disfigurement and dysfunction, according to the Department of Health in the Western Cape.
Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital treats children for preventable burns and injuries caused by fireworks around Guy Fawkes each year. This is concerning considering that burns is the third most common cause of accidental deaths amongst children under 14 years in South Africa.
The hospital's burn unit offers the following safety tips can help eliminate injuries caused by fireworks:
- Keep a close eye on children at events where fireworks are used – don’t allow them to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
- Keep children and other observers at a safe distance, behind a protective barrier.
- Never allow children to handle matches, lighters or fireworks (including sparklers). Consider safer alternatives such as glow sticks, confetti poppers or streamers.
- Keep fireworks out of reach of children - even sparklers burn hot enough to cause third-degree burns.
- Only attend the designated areas identified by the City of Cape Town for the discharge of fireworks.
- Should a burn injury occur, cool the burn by keeping the burnt body part under cold running tap water for 20 minutes to stop the burning process.
- Should anyone sustain a burn injury involving flames, the victim should stop, drop and roll to put out the flames.
Don't become a burn victim
Specialist surgeon Dr Nikki Allorto said that burns is a big problem in South Africa with national data showing that 3.2 percent of the population get burnt annually.
During her address at the launch of the Stop the Burn Campaign earlier this year, she said burns account for 12 percent of all fatal accidents.
"Mortality from burns in South Africa is 8.5 in 100 000. The world average is 5 in 100 000," said Dr Allorto, who is president of the South African Burn Society and founder of the Burn Care Trust.
"That is 1.6 million burn injuries every year. 0.2 percent suffer severe burns, which in real terms means that 268 people are severely burnt every month across the country," said Dr Allorto.