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Learn, don't burn this summer

Image shows two women in front of a sign

Learn, don’t burn. That’s the message burns experts are sending out to parents and children to prevent potentially serious injuries this summer.

As the warm weather kicks in, Morriston Hospital often experiences a rise in burn-related injuries. In a proactive move, the burns and plastics team are highlighting good practice in order to prevent painful accidents to yourself, family, friends and the general public.

Image shows a man next to a barbeque The advice comes at the start of National Child Safety Week, which runs between the 6th and 12th of June.

Louise Scannell, paediatric lead for burns and plastic surgery, and Fiona Davies, clinical lead for paediatric burns and plastics, have come up with top tips to help everyone enjoy summer safely.

Be barbecue safe

“Out of all the burn injuries we have, the most common for this time of year is definitely barbecue related,” said Louise.

“The weather is a lot nicer now and it’s lovely having a barbecue in your own garden or at the park. But there are certain factors you need to be aware of. The positioning of your barbecue is very important. Ensure it’s away from a busy area where kids may be playing - and children should not be allowed to use it. The person in charge of the barbecue shouldn’t be consuming alcohol either.

“There has certainly been a steep rise in injuries sustained from disposable barbecues left on the beach. The tendency is to bury the coals under the sand, but that means they can’t be seen which results in people stepping on them. That can cause a really nasty injury because the sand is heated by the coals, rather than the coals cooling through the sand.

"It’s a common misconception, but it’s an important thing to be aware of.

“There are disposable bins for barbecues around some of Swansea’s beaches, so we urge people to make use of them to prevent harm to others.”

Sunburn concern

“We are coming into the hottest times of the year, so sunburn is something we all need to be aware of and take seriously,” said Fiona.

“The damage it can do to children, in particular, should not be underestimated.

Image shows a woman applying sun lotion to a boy “It’s also important to realise that it doesn’t have to be very hot to burn skin - you can burn even if it’s overcast. You need to keep reapplying lotion even if your lotion is water resistant and wear a hat and t-shirt in the hottest part of the day.

“Even though you may not appear to be burning, the sun is still damaging your skin and the risk of skin cancer is increased.

“The pain and trauma it causes should also be considered. Children with a burn that hasn’t healed in three weeks are likely to have scarring and ongoing problems. The deeper the burn the more significant the problems they’ll have later in life.”

Hot topic

“Looking after children often requires caffeine, but remember to put your cuppa down in a safe spot out of reach of little hands that can grab it as soon as your back is turned,” said Louise.

“We see a load of toddlers who have suffered scalding from grabbing hot drinks.

“When you go to cafes, you’re out of the comfort zone you have at home, so there are more distractions and the risks to children are greater.

“A hot drink, even one that’s been standing there for 15 minutes, can seriously scald a baby.”

Other top tips

Aside from barbecues, sunburn and hot drinks, there are plenty of other potential dangers which can be avoided.

Hair straighteners are another common reason for young patients admitted to the burns unit.

Straighteners can reach temperatures of 240 degrees centigrade – that’s almost two-and-a-half times the temperature it takes to boil water (100 degrees) and six times of an average bath (40 degrees).

Image shows two women holding posters PICTURED: Fiona Davies (left) and Louise Scannell.

Children who grab the appliance while it’s hot can suffer burns so serious the heat can melt skin.

In order to combat the rise in energy prices, hot water bottles are also being used more often to save on heating costs.

But the damage caused by failing to recognise the dangers of using boiling water or not replacing the hot water bottles regularly shouldn’t be underestimated.

Button batteries can be used to power up toys, but it’s imperative that they’re not easily accessible.

If a lithium coin cell battery (the round silver battery like a 5p coin) is swallowed and gets stuck in the food pipe, it can burn a hole and cause internal bleeding. Ensure you keep any loose batteries out of reach and dispose of ‘flat’ batteries quickly and safely.

Log burners are becoming increasingly popular given the rise in energy costs, but the heat on the appliance can cause significant damage. Simply place a guard around the fire and bolt it to the wall.

“These are solutions which are simple yet often overlooked when it comes to prevention of burns injuries,” added Fiona.

“Most importantly, they ensure children are kept in a safe environment but can enjoy themselves at the same time.”

Anyone who suffers a burn which needs to be seen by a clinician, the Minor Injury Unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital can treat minor conditions including minor burns to all patients over the age of one.

Patients should only go to Morriston Hospital’s A&E (Emergency Department) in the event of serious burns or serious injury. Children aged under one must go to the children’s emergency department at Morriston.

Please note that the MIU cannot treat serious injuries or illnesses.

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