Burns doctors warn against harmful risks of social media trends

Media Release

Burns specialists at The Royal Children‘s Hospital (RCH) are urging families to be cautious when following social media trends, after several children needed treatment for significant household burns.


In the past month, a number of children have presented to the RCH with injuries sustained while making toffee at home, as dangerous DIY recipes circulate on social media. 


Dr Warwick Teague, head of the Burns and Trauma Services at the RCH, said while the cases shouldn’t be cause for alarm, burn centres across Australia are seeing similar, worrying trends emerging. 


“Our colleagues in other parts of the country, as well as in New Zealand, are reporting similar toffee burns for children following this online trend, often with burns to the child’s stomach and feet from spilled hot liquid.”


At least 15 children attended burns centres with toffee or similar online trend burns in Australia and New Zealand in the last month, with one third of cases undergoing surgery for a skin graft.


In some cases, the burns have been so severe, they’ve required one or more operations for skin grafting.


“We know from experience how quickly these online trends or “challenges” can gain popularity and spread. We are reaching out now to warn about these dangers to stop large numbers of preventable burns from ever happening,” Dr Teague explained.


In some cases, hot liquid has exploded in microwaves and plastic bowls, labelled as “microwave safe” have melted.


“Children accessing social media are being emboldened to put themselves in harm’s way, with home-cooked toffee a current example. These online recipes are recipes for disaster, with liquids reaching temperatures that would place even a teenager with kitchen experience in danger,” Dr Teague said.


Doctors explained good burn first aid can make a real difference to the severity of a burn and ultimate recovery. 


“Burns can happen even when taking care, and when a burn occurs, it makes a real difference to run the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes. Ice and butter should never be used as they make matters worse,” Dr Teague added.

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