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Majority of toddler hot drink burns being treated incorrectly

There’s a strong chance that carers, overseers and educators at preschool facilities need a refresher course, or maybe even an introduction, into first aid treatment for burns and scalds of youngsters. That’s the key takeout from a revelatory study conducted by a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland.

Jacquii Burgess, from the Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research, concluded that more than two-thirds of toddlers burnt in hot drink accidents – the spilling of cups of coffee or tea, which is majority cause (at 74 per cent) of burning incidents in children aged up to 24 months – were not being treated adequately and/or correctly.

“We surveyed parents and caregivers of children aged 0-36 months with hot drink scalds over a 12-month period who were treated at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital,” Burgess said. “Only 28 per cent of children received correct burn first aid. This is despite 66 per cent of parents reporting that they had undertaken first aid training in the previous 12 months.”

What is best practice in the instance of a hot water burn? Burgess recommends running cool water over the wider burn area for 20 minutes. Burgess cautioned against curtailing this treatment too soon, even if the child’s discomfit appears to be heightening or, conversely, sufficiently succoured. “The most common reason parents reported applying water for shorter periods of time was that they thought it was adequate or the child was too distressed,” she said.

Prevention is better than cure, Burgess cliched, so staff at child- and daycare facilities should take simple measures to avert scalds.

“Lack of supervision is often cited as a primary contributor to childhood injuries but for these scalds it appears that attention and continuity of supervision play a more important role than just being close to your child to keep them safe,” Burgess said. “This finding may reflect the competing demands placed on parents and caregivers in a busy household.

“The majority of incidents recorded were caused by the child pulling down a cup of hot liquid over themselves.

“It’s about putting your cup of hot coffee or tea to the back of the bench or out of reach of your toddler to give yourself those few extra seconds to intervene.”

Burgess’s findings in toto have been published in Burns under the header Hot tea and tiny tots don’t mix: A cross-sectional survey on hot beverage scalds.

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