Burn alert

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To most of us, a cof­fee mug, table­cloth, elec­tri­cal socket, pot han­dle and a ther­mal flask are noth­ing more than just ev­ery­day house­hold items. For an in­quis­i­tive tod­dler how­ever, they are the mak­ings of a se­ri­ous burn in­jury.

Burn in­juries most com­monly oc­cur in tod­dlers be­tween the ages of nine months and two years, shares

Dr Gale Lim, head and con­sul­tant at the department of plas­tic, re­con­struc­tive and aes­thetic surgery at KK Women’s and Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal (KKH), which sees all burn re­fer­rals from the Chil­dren’s Emer­gency department.

Last year alone, KKH’s Chil­dren’s Emer­gency han­dled 515 chil­dren with burn in­juries, an in­crease from 487 cases in 2015.

The in­crease could be due to greater aware­ness of the need to bring a child to a spe­cialised cen­tre for treat­ment of burns, says Dr Tham Lai Peng, se­nior con­sul­tant at KKH’s department of emer­gency medicine.

Among them, seven in 10 had sec­ond-de­gree burns with blis­ters and a quar­ter had su­per­fi­cial mi­nor burns. One per cent had full thick­ness, or third-de­gree burns. About 9 per cent had to be hos­pi­talised.

“Com­mon rea­sons for ad­mis­sion are ma­jor burns, con­cerns of burns in the air­ways or in­hala­tion of smoke. Those with mod­er­ate burns may also be ad­mit­ted if spe­cialised dress­ing is re­quired in the op­er­at­ing the­atre,” Dr Tham says.

The worst case treated in KKH, she shares, is a child who had ma­jor burns of 80 per cent of his to­tal body sur­face area.

There have been many other har­row­ing cases: One young tod­dler suf­fered deep sec­ond-de­gree burns on the face af­ter an iron, which had just been switched off, fell on his face. He had bumped into the alu­minum iron­ing board.

Another tod­dler had wan­dered into the kitchen while in a walker.

“The child pulled on an elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ance hold­ing a large vol­ume of wa­ter, and sus­tained very ex­ten­sive scalds and had to stay in in­ten­sive care unit for a few days,” Dr Lim shares.

Ev­ery year, KKH’s department of plas­tic, re­con­struc­tive and aes­thetic surgery han­dles more than 1,000 dress­ing pro­ce­dures for burn in­juries.

About 3 per cent re­quire re­con­struc­tive surgery such as skin graft­ing, a pro­ce­dure that in­volves trans­plant­ing healthy skin from an un­in­jured part of the body to cover a se­ri­ous wound.


Many of these in­juries could have been pre­vented, Dr Lim says. For ex­am­ple, the most com­mon cause of scalds arises when tod­dlers spill hot liq­uids onto them­selves. Such ac­ci­dents can be pre­vented if care­givers keep dan­ger­ous hot flu­ids away from lit­tle ones.

This ob­ser­va­tion spurred

Dr Lim and her team to pro­duce an ed­u­ca­tional video for par­ents and care­givers of young chil­dren. The video (www.tinyurl.com/Kid­sBurns) is avail­able in sev­eral lan­guages, in­clud­ing English, Chi­nese, Ba­hasa In­done­sia, Tamil and Burmese.

Here, Dr Lim shares more tips on how you can pro­tect your lit­tle one: • An­tic­i­pate your lit­tle one’s be­hav­iour. For ex­am­ple, avoid hav­ing hot drinks in the pres­ence of your tod­dler or place hot drinks out of reach. Cool hot

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