IT is estimated that KwaZulu-Natal hospitals treat approximately 8 000 children per year for burn injuries. As many as 80% of all burn injuries in the province involve children under the age of 14.
This is according to Dr Den Hollander, head of the Regional Burns Unit at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, who says that there are three dedicated burn units in KwaZulu-Natal with a combined capacity far below what is required to treat the number of injuries.
“Many burns are therefore treated in general surgical units by already overstretched teams. We also use tele-medicine to assess and advise on the management and treatment of burns in children at remote hospitals. This allows us to assist inexperienced doctors having to deal with burns.”
August is Child Safety Month and throughout the month, child safety advocacy organisation ChildSafe will be raising awareness on how to prevent and treat burns among children.
Hollander’s unit in KZN treats the worst of burn injuries — those that cover over 40% of the children’s bodies and deep burns to hands, face and scalps. He advises that the overwhelming majority of burn injuries in children are caused by hot liquids from children spilling cups of hot tea, running into pots of boiling water and falling into baths of hot water, for example. “We also obviously see many fire burns from children falling into open cooking fires, being trapped in burning houses, and from veld fires.”
“Children can get burnt at any time of the year, but we see a dramatic increase in the number of children treated for burns in the colder months, with stoves, heaters and open fires used to heat homes,” said Yolande Baker, ChildSafe executive director.
Children under the age of five are most susceptible, with their innate curiosity about the world, and their growing independence. “That’s why it’s important to teach them from a very early age how they can avoid getting burnt.”
Baker said: “Every injury caused by burns is a tragedy, but these injuries can be averted with extra vigilance and monitoring from parents and caregivers. As much as children can be burnt in many ways, there are also many ways to prevent children from getting burnt. There are ways to make homes more safe, and ways to remind children every day of the dangers of being near flames or boiling liquids. But it’s something that needs to be remembered every day.”
To mark the launch of the campaign, Childsafe has released a list of the top 10 ways to prevent burns. These simple tips will protect children and may avoid devastating tragedies that could have life-changing consequences.
Top 10 tips for preventing burns:
1. Be vigilant with children around heaters, stoves, candles and other open flames such as candles, paraffin lamps, portable stoves, braais and open fires.
2. Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove.
3. Place hot liquids and food at the centre of the table.
4. Always test the water temperature with your elbow before placing a child in the bath.
5. Place kettles and cords at the back of the counter or table.
6. Teach children from as young as possible about the difference between the hot and cold taps.
7. Avoid overloading power points, and don’t run electrical wires under carpets.
8. Cover unused power outlets with safety plugs.
9. Never hold a child while cooking on the stove.
10. Immediately extinguish wood and coal fires with water, and paraffin, oil or petrol fires with sand or a fire extinguisher, once you’ve finished using them
ChildSafe also offers some simple first-aid steps if a child is burnt.
1. Remove the child from the source of danger.
2. Cool a burn under cold water for a long time.
3. Protect the injury with a clean cloth or plastic wrap.
4. Seek advice immediately from a medical professional or emergency services.
For details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or check the website www.childsafe.org.za