First aid and care for child burns
Posted Saturday, September 22 2012 at 01:00
- Irons, cookers, hot food and hot water are fairly innocuous items in any household… until they come into contact with a child. What do you do for a child with burns?
Children and toddlers are susceptible to burns due to their curious nature and their sensitive skin. Yvonne Moraa, a 32-year-old mother of one, remembers on Sunday morning two years ago.
“We were preparing for church and I had been in the kitchen all morning preparing breakfast.” She was laying the table when suddenly, she heard a scream issue from the kitchen.
“I dashed there and found my son had burned his hand.” Kevin had dipped his hand into a sufuria filled with fresh-boiled porridge. On the floor was a cup half-full of porridge.
“When he walked out of the living room I thought he had gone to the bedroom. But he was attempting to serve himself as he usually saw me do,” says Yvonne. Although four-year-old Kevin has since fully recovered, he will have to bear the burn scars he sustained for much of his life.
In a study conducted at the Kenyatta National Hospital in 2006, the mean age of 109 consecutive burn patients admitted was 14.4 years. Children under the age of five were 48.6 per cent more likely to present with scalds compared to adults.
Unsurprisingly, 80 per cent of burn cases happen at home, and naturally curious and rambunctious boys are more likely to be injured.
According to Dr. Benson Karanja, a paediatrician, the most common burns in children are thermal.
“They are often caused by scalds from hot fluids – like a cup of porridge – and are predominantly seen in children under the age of three,” he says.
Next are contact burns. In most cases, the injuries sustained are on the palms of the child’s hands. “For instance, the child comes into contact with a hot object, a heater or hot frying pan.”
Nonetheless, hot bath water remains the biggest cause of severe burns in children. This is what happened to Miriam Ndinda’s five-year-old daughter.
“I got the call from work. My house-help was about to bathe my daughter and had poured hot water in the tub then gone to the kitchen while waiting for it to cool. The next thing, my daughter had jumped in. Her legs were severely wounded,” she says.
Treatment and care
All burns should be treated quickly and appropriately to reduce damage on the skin and the underlying tissues. According to Dr. Karanja, a superficial burn will heal within seven to 12 days.
“At 14 days after the injury has occurred, any unhealed, relatively large areas that have no islands of epithelium should be assessed for skin grafting.”
Thermal burns: Quickly immerse the burned hands, arms or legs in cool water. You can also expose the burned area to running tap water or cover it with a wet, soft cloth.
Apply cold compresses to burns of the trunk or face using soft material until the pain has eased, usually for 15-30 minutes.” However, do not apply ice. “Applying ice effectively causes vasoconstriction and increases nerve damage,” cautions Dr. Karanja.
Chemical burns: Carefully and gently brush off the dried chemical from the skin, with your hands well protected.
Then remove any contaminated clothing. Remember to wash the skin with a lot of water, particularly if the mouth or eyes have been affected. In addition, use the antidote recommended on the product container, or soap.