This weekend I plan on doing a little baking with my daughter. We are going to make cookies for her friends at playschool. My daughter loves getting involved in the kitchen which usually means I have to be super vigilent about keeping an eye on her.
I think the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house. It’s the room with the most appliances, utensils and where most of us keep the cleaning materials. For our cookie making masterclass this weekend we will be using the oven for baking and this is why I am going to be talking a little more about thermal burns in children. Of course children can also sustain chemical and electrical burns in the kitchen but for this blog I will only be looking at thermal injuries.
Thermal burns can occur from hot liquids, hot solids or flames. According to the WHO, burns are the “fifth most common cause of non-fatal childhood injuries” worldwide. However in South Africa things are a little more frightening. In children 1 to 4 years of age, thermal injury is the second most common cause of mortality, with toddlers and boys being at highest risk.
CLASSIFICATION OF BURNS
Burns are no longer classified as first, second or third degree and are currently being described according to the depth of the burn.
- Superficial thickness – This burn involves only the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). Here you will only notice a reddening of the skin.
- Partial thickness – This is further classified into superficial or deep partial thickness. This burn involves the entire epidermis and parts of the dermis.
- Superficial partial thickness: appears red with blisters and is very painful.
- Deep partial thickness: looks waxy white with some areas of red, wet and blistered. This depth of burn may be less painful.
- Full thickness – This burn involves the entire epidermis and the entire dermis. The skin looks white and leathery. There is no pain as the nerve endings in the skin have all been damaged. However, surrounding areas of partial thickness burns will be painful.
- Fourth degree – This is the deepest type of burn where there is damage to the structures underlying the skin such as the muscles and bones.
Full thickness and fourth degree burns almost always require surgical intervention and skin grafting. Some deep partial thickness burns may also require surgical management.
HOW TO TREAT A COOKING BURN
Act FAST: A child’s skin will burn much faster than adult skin.
The longer a burn remains open, the more likely it will get infected so get it covered as quickly as possible.
- Remove your child from the source of the burn.
- Remove any clothing near the affected area to expose the wound. Don’t try to remove anything that is stuck to the burn.
- Place affected area under cool running water for up to 20 minutes. Do this as soon as possible to prevent any further thermal injury.
- Pat dry gently with a clean cloth or gauze.
- You can now apply a burn gel if you have one (if you don’t have this proceed to the next step). This will help cool the wound but should only be used short-term. Remove after a few hours and wash away any excess gel left on the wound with cool running water, then gently pat area dry.
- Cover the wound loosely with a dry, sterile non-adherent dressing.
WHAT ABOUT BLISTERS?
It’s important to leave blisters alone. You can apply a burn gel over a blister. Just be careful when you rinse the wound of the gel once you remove it that you don’t rub too hard, as the skin on top is very thin. Cover the blistered wound with a dry dressing.
If the blister has popped the underlying skin is raw and exposed and at increased risk of infection. It is now even more important to keep the wound clean. There is new evidence to suggest that you can now cover the wound with a wet dressing until it heals provided you regularly wash the area and keep the dressings clean.
You can read more in one of my previous blogs https://www.oneaid.co.za/picking-scabs-popping-blisters/
BUTTER, TOOTHPASTE AND TURMERIC
I have seen patients put all kinds of things on their burns. Superficial burns require nothing more than initial cooling, a dry dressing and some painkillers. If there are blisters you can manage the wound as described above. Applying home remedies can do more harm than good.
Antibiotic ointments for prophylaxis (prevention of infection) are an issue of debate. Many specialists don’t advocate their use as they can cause antibiotic resistance if the wound were to get infected.
GO TO THE ER!
- Any burn, regardless of depth, bigger than the palm of your child’s hand;
- Any burn, regardless of size, deeper than a superficial partial thickness burn;
- Any burn, regardless of size, involving the head and neck, hands, feet, groin and joints;
- Circumferential burns of any size around the chest, abdomen or a limb; and/or
- When there was a risk of inhalation burns
SAFEGUARD YOUR KITCHEN AGAINST BURNS
Burns are preventable!
- Make sure appliances that contain hot liquids such as kettles and slow cookers as well as hotplates are kept out of reach.
- Make sure that electrical cords of these appliances are also out of reach. Exploring children can pull on the cords as well as trip over them if they are lying on the floor. I read about an incident where a young child tripped over a cord pulling a slow cooker and all the hot contents over her. She sustained serious full thickness burns over most of her body.
- Use the furthest burner on the stovetop and keep pot handles turned away towards the back.
- Don’t mix hot liquids in a blender as the contents can explode out onto whoever is standing nearby.
- Be careful of long hair and loose clothing, which can catch on fire.
- Keep paper towels, dishcloths and oven mitts away from the stovetop as they can catch on fire.
- Keep chemicals and other flammables such as paraffin locked away at all times https://www.oneaid.co.za/10-essential-tips-to-prevent-poisoning-in-your-home/
- If you have little children running around you should never take your eye off the kitchen if you still have something cooking.
Cooking with your kids can be so much fun. It’s hands on and a great form of ‘messy play’. It’s also a great way to get your children to explore new flavours. I find that if my daughter has been involved in the prepping of her meal she is much more likely to eat it. Next time why don’t you let your toddler better their motor skills by cracking open some eggs or measuring out some flour.