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.
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
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