About 50,000 Victorian hospital admissions each year are because of burn injuries.
Burns and scalds are a leading cause of injury to young children, with toddlers most at risk.
Around 80 per cent of child burn injuries happen in the home, most often in kitchens and bathrooms.
Other high-risk places include fireplaces and camping sites. Flame burns are a common cause of burn injury to young adults.
There are seven types of burns:
- scalds (caused by hot liquids, foods or steam)
- contact (with hot objects e.g. heaters, or with very cold objects e.g. dry ice)
- friction (e.g. treadmill)
- radiation (including sun burn)
All burns can be serious. Even small burns can have long-term consequences. Severe burns often require ongoing physiotherapy and multiple surgeries.
By taking a few minutes to make your home and environment as safe as possible, you could prevent a life-changing injury.
FRV is a member of the Victorian Burns Prevention Partnership (VBPP). We work with CFA and the burns units at the Alfred and Royal Children's Hospitals to help prevent burns.
The main cause of burns in young children is scalds caused by hot foods and drinks, steam and liquids.
Children are commonly scalded by hot food and drinks (e.g. tea, coffee, soups, noodles) that have been pulled down off benches.
In the kitchen
- Always supervise children in the kitchen. If possible encourage/teach them to stay out of the kitchen while you are cooking or preparing meals.
- If you have a toddler, consider installing a child safety gate to keep them out while you are cooking.
- Keep your child away from hot foods and liquids (e.g. tea, coffee, soups, noodles). Keep hot drinks and foods out of reach.
- Store the kettle and cord away from the edge of the bench, and turn pot handles in so that children can’t reach them.
In the bathroom
- The temperature of hot water delivered to basins, baths, and showers should not exceed 50°C (a licensed plumber can set the temperature correctly).
- Always test the water before letting your child get in the shower or bath. 37°C is the maximum recommended temperature for a child’s bath water.
- Fill the bath with cold water first and then add the hot water.
- Stay within arm’s reach of your child when they are in the bath
- Keep your child away from lever taps as these are easy for you or your child to knock on accidentally.
Flame burns from open fires such as campfires, bonfires and fire pits are a common cause of burn injury to young adults in Australia.
They are often caused by flammable liquid being added to an open campfire. These burns typically occur to men aged 15 -35 years, but can happen to anyone. Burns usually occur to the hands, arms and legs and often require hospital admission and surgery.
You could prevent a life-changing injury by:
- Using a portable fuel stove rather than an open fire if possible
- Limiting your alcohol consumption when near an open fire
- Not adding accelerants like petrol to a smoldering or lit fire
- Not throwing aerosols into a fire
- Not allowing children to run, play or be unsupervised near a campfire
- Never lighting fires during a Total Fire Ban or on windy days
Treatment is the same for all burn injuries.
Remove clothing or jewellery that is not stuck to the burn, being gentle not to further damage the skin. Sometimes you will need to cut clothing to remove it.
As soon as possible, hold the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes only. This is useful for up to three hours after the burn. It’s important to keep the person as warm as possible and just target the burn with the cool water.
Do not use ice to cool the burn as this may make the burn worse. Never apply any lotions, creams or food items (including egg whites, butter, toothpaste, potato). Cool running water is best.
Cover the burn with a loose, non-stick dressing or plastic cling film until the person is seen by a doctor. However, do not keep plastic cling film on for more than an hour. The doctor may apply a new dressing, which will keep the burn clean and help to reduce pain.
You should seek medical help immediately if:
- the burn is deep, even if the person does not feel any pain
- the burn is larger than 3 cm or has blisters
- the burn is on the face, hands or genitals
- the burn is to the throat or airway
- you are concerned or unsure about the injury
Call an ambulance on 000 immediately for a severe burn injury.
If you or your clothes catch fire don’t run!
- STOP immediately
- DROP gently to the ground
- COVER your face with your hands
- ROLL over and over on your sides until the fire is out. This will smother the fire.
Then, SEEK medical attention immediately.
Children should be taught and should practice this at home.
Reviewed 06 October 2021