Do you know how to treat a burn?

As winter brings cooler temperatures and more time spent indoors, it is timely to consider burn safety inside the home.

Many burn injuries are preventable and Elliott Doxey’s story is the perfect example of the benefits of knowing appropriate first aid treatment.

On a cold Saturday morning, Toni Doxey was running their natural gas heater, turning it off before 15-month-old Elliott woke up.

“It’s one of those things that we’ve always looked at since we had Elliott. We know it’s dangerous so we never run it when she’s awake, but we do turn it on in the morning because it’s the only source of heating in the house.”

“Elliott has just started walking in the last few weeks and she came into the lounge room and just went straight for the heater. She had a little trip and her hands went straight on the front of the glass. Even though the heater had been off for nearly an hour, and her hands were only there for a couple of seconds, it was enough to do damage.”

Toni and her husband knew to run cold water over the burn for 20 minutes as soon as possible. However, when they started to see blisters, they immediately took Elliott to the hospital.

First aid tips for parents and carers

  • As soon as possible, hold the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes only. This needs to be done within three hours of the injury.
  • Remove clothing or jewellery that is not stuck to the burn, being gentle not to further damage the skin.
  • It’s important to try to keep your child as warm as possible and just target the burn with the cool water.

When to seek medical help

If the burn is minor and has not caused the skin to blister or break, and your child seems settled, there is no need to see a doctor. For all other burns, seek medical assistance.

You should seek medical help immediately if:

  • the burn is deep, even if your child does not feel any pain
  • the burn is larger than 3 cm and/or has blisters
  • the burn is on the face, hands or genitals
  • the burn is to the throat or around the nose or mouth
  • you are concerned or unsure about the injury.

Call an ambulance immediately if your child has a severe burn injury.

Luckily for Elliott, her parents knew what to do and when to seek further help. Toni’s advice to all families is to learn more about burns first aid, especially as we head into winter.

“Since the accident we’ve fixed a grate around the heater to block it, so Elliott can’t get to the glass anymore. I would recommend parents learn about burns first aid. Had my husband not worked in hospitality and been there, I wouldn’t have really known what to do.”

Elliott has required multiple dressing changes at The Royal Children’s Hospital Burns Clinic and is now recovering well at home in Mildura.

Burns Awareness Month is held every year to educate children (and parents) about how easily burns can happen, how they can be prevented, and appropriate first aid treatments.

Resources are available, including this Kids Health Information fact sheet, this Burns Safety Checklist from Kidsafe and a range of Kidsafe videos, available here.

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