Scalds are the most common type of burn injury for children under five years old.

Scalds often occur when young children mimic adult behaviour. These injuries can be caused by pulling hot drinks off tables, reaching up to grab handles of pots and pans or by playing with taps in the bath.

Scalding is what you’d classify as thermal burns from direct heat applied to the area,” says Ryan Wills, Training Manager in Emergency Medical Care at ER24. “There is one universal way to treat a scald: run it under clean running water. It doesn’t specifically have to be cold water; it can be cold to lukewarm water.

“Flushing under running water for one to two minutes helps clean the area for contaminants obviously, but it also cools the area down, which assists in reducing the pain and inflammation resulting from the injury,” Wills explains. He advises that you don’t place any ice on it because this will worsen the injury. It’s also important not to touch the wound directly with your hands as this could cause infection. 

And never apply butter or toothpaste. Wills explains this retains the heat and makes the injury worse. “When those contaminants start to harden around the wound, it makes it really difficult to clean the area.”

After using clean running water to cool the wound, cover it with a light gauze dressing to protect the area until you get professional medical attention. If you don’t have anything appropriate, rather leave it uncovered. “It’s important to visit a health facility because the wounds get infected very easily,” Wills warns.

If the scalding is severe, call ER24 on 084 124 for real help, real fast. Paramedics will perform the same process, removing any clothes, flushing the area with clean water and dressing all the wounds to keep them clean and sterile. “Depending on the surface area of the scald they might give some fluid via a drip to prevent the patient from becoming dehydrated. If needed, the paramedics transport the patient to the most appropriate or accessible health facility.” To prevent scalds in the home, never leave children unattended. “If you’re working on a stove, use the plate that’s furthest away from the edge so little children are less likely to grab onto a pot or pan and pull it onto themselves; because these are injuries we see often,” adds Wills. “If you’re cooking with a saucepan or frying pan, make sure the handle, when not in use, is faced away from the edge of the counter.” 

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