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Burns can happen quickly! Taking preventative measures can help, but you should also know how to treat burn injuries.

Winter may be a good time for us to gather round the fire with a mug of tea or hot chocolate, but it’s a scary time for healthcare practitioners who find an increasing number of children coming in to be treated for burns.

Statistics show that more than 250 children are burnt every day in South Africa, with the majority of incidents occurring in the home environment. The most common cause is related to the use of paraffin, but others are inflicted by hot water, faulty switches and plugs, or exposed cables.

Most of these injuries are preventable, so here’s what you can do:

  • be vigilant when cooking or heating up anything in the kitchen
  • make sure children are supervised at all times
  • never leave heaters on all night, and especially when the family is asleep
  • keep all flammable materials away from heating devices
  • keep children a safe distance away from heaters and stoves

types of burns and what to do

  • First-degree burns – this is a superficial burn or wound, which affects the first layer of skin. The skin will be red and slightly swollen. Simply run cold water over the affected area for five to ten minutes and cover the burn with a sterile dressing.
  • Second-degree burns – affect the epidermis and dermis. They cause extreme pain, redness, swelling and blistering. Seek medical assistance.
  • Third-degree burns – go through the dermis and affect deeper tissues. They are extremely serious. If the burn covers a large part of the body, cover it with a clean sheet soaked in cold water. Remove clothing, shoes and jewellery from the area unless it is stuck and seek medical assistance.
  • Chemical burns – remove any contaminated clothing and brush off any dry chemicals or residue. Wash the affected area under running water for 15 minutes then visit a doctor or hospital.

Read our article on treating home emergencies.

what not to do

NEVER do the following:

  • apply butter or other food onto a burn
  • don’t break any blisters.
  • allow toddlers near a naked flame, heater or paraffin stove
  • leave live wires and cabling exposed in your home

where to seek help

The South African Burn Society has a comprehensive list of dedicated burn centres across the country, including at provincial hospitals.