With the days drawing in and leaves on the ground, the only thing standing between us and Christmas is bonfire night. My children love this time of year and look forward to the fireworks display we’ve been to every year since they can remember. However, to a Paediatrician, this time of year can only mean one thing… burns!
Of course, burns from fireworks are thankfully much rarer but we still see many children each year coming to our hospitals with serious burns and scalds. Actually, the commonest story is of a recently mobile baby or toddler who pulls a hot cup of tea/coffee onto themselves and comes in with scalds to face, chest, arms… and parents hugely distressed that they didn’t manage to prevent the injury. It happens to all of us – my 3rd child reached out and pulled a boiling hot cup of tea over himself a couple of months ago – he was 14 months old and my husband had maybe not realised how long his arms were! He’s fine but we were all pretty upset by the incident!
Prevention is obviously always better than cure. Children can reach and climb way further than we realise so ensuring hot drinks are well out of reach is a must. Similarly open flames – candles, tea lights, lanterns must be kept well away from children – and actually, I just don’t light them until they’ve gone to bed. However, even with the best of intentions, accidents do happen so here’s what to do:
· Remove hot clothing, unless it is actually stuck into the burn, remove anything that is hot and in contact with the child.
· Put the burn under ‘cool’ not ‘cold’ water for as long as you can – at least 10 minutes. Children will tolerate cool water much better and you’ll be more likely to be successful!
· Try to keep the rest of the child warm – you’ve stripped them down and put them in cool water so now they are freezing! Try to wrap the unaffected parts of them in clothes/a blanket to keep the rest of their body warm.
· Wrap the burn in clingfilm – this helps keep it clean and helps with pain relief.
· Give some pain relief if you have it to hand – you can give both paracetamol (Calpol) and ibuprofen (Nurofen) – read the doses on the side of the packet and do not exceed recommended doses for age.
· Take your child to see a Doctor for all but the tiniest of burns – GP, A&E or minor injuries units will all see burns. Most burns will need a special dressing to keep them clean and aid with healing.
Just to let you know, all children aged under 5 years who are seen in hospital with an injury will be notified to their Health Visitor – don’t take it personally – they are there to support families and will often call to check all is well and to offer home safety advice. This is routine and we sometimes forget to tell parents that this will happen – it’s all part of a mechanism to keep children safe and to support young families.
Finally, keep safe and Happy Fireworks’ Night!