‘A screaming 3 year old presents to the paediatric emergency department with a contact burn on the top of her right foot after a hot iron was left unattended. The mother unsure of what to do, called her own mother for advice who suggested covering the burn in butter.’

This case is one of many seen in emergency departments across the world involving a preventable burn and potentially harmful first aid measure. “Burns are the third-most common cause of accidental deaths among children under 14 years, after motor vehicle accidents and drowning”, confirms Dr Stella de Kock, Managing Director at Transplant Education for Living Legacies. “Nearly 230 children die from burns in SA every year.”

Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital are the leading burn units in South Africa. According to TELL, the Nelson Mandela Children’s hospital treats about 3,500 children for burns every year. About 1,300 of these are severe.


Children and the elderly have thinner skin, therefore their skin burns faster and deeper. This means that their injuries are often more serious and have long-term effects. It is well known that a patient who is assessed and treated quickly responds and heals more quickly than those with delayed management. First aid can greatly reduce the risks and severity of the injury.

A study was conducted in United Kingdom of 1327 children under the age of 16 years with burns or scalds seen in emergency departments and burns units. Overall 42% had immediate care involving cold water cooling and 29% had no immediate first aid or treatment that would be considered critical. This study suggests that first aid training for parents in the home setting is inadequate and prompted a further study that aimed to determine the extent and source of parents’ knowledge of burn first aid.

Only 32% of parents were found to have some basic burn first aid knowledge. Of the total subjects, 40% stated that their first-aid knowledge of burns had been learnt from a first aid course usually taken in the workplace (UK Health and Safety requirements state that one employee in every work setting must undergo standardised first aid training, which includes basic burns first aid).

Less than a third of parents have adequate knowledge of burns first aid


Statistics recognise that burns are most common in children under the age of three. Parents’ knowledge of first aid is particularly important as it is widely recognised that correct initial first aid can dramatically improve the burn outcome and reduce associated pain. Previous studies have highlighted the broad range of first aid used in the home; all conclude that burns first aid administered in the home to children is suboptimal suggesting that parent and carer burns first-aid knowledge requires improvement.

Prompt and appropriate first aid aims to stop the burning process and to cool the burn

Burnshield is an international go-to emergency burn care range of premium Hydrogels and Dressings that provide an immediate and effective method of treating burn injuries in the emergency phase. It is most effective in the first 24  hours by absorbing and dissipating heat, providing physical protection against infection, and minimises trauma and skin damage. The high water content in Burnshield effectively transfers heat through evaporation providing effective cooling and reduces pain and shock. More product info.

Important burns first aid

  1. Stop the burn – remove the patient from the source of the burn
  2. Cool the burn – Immediately apply Burnshield or cool running water for 20 minutes

Following these easy first aid steps and attending a burn first aid course will be beneficial for any patient with a burn injury. First aid training is designed to enable a person to be competent, ensuring safety and preserve life at all costs.

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Resource: https://www.timeslive.co.za/, Medical Chronicle March 20202


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