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Hot Drinks Harm

The expert team at the South West UK Children’s Burn Centre at Frenchay Hospital, in Bristol, treat thousands of children every year who have been injured by hot drinks.

A scald is a burn injury caused by hot liquid, hot vapour or steam and in young children, scalds are commonly associated with hot drink spillages, water being boiled for drinks, cooking, hot food and hot tap water.

Scald injuries cause pain and can scar a child for life.

Injuries are usually to the head, face, neck and chest.

Hot drink scalds usually happen when a young child pulls a cup of tea onto themselves or pulls on an item (e.g. a tablecloth) that causes a drink to fall.

Injuries are also caused when children run into someone holding a hot drink or when they are themselves held by someone who has a drink and spills it.

Hot water can cause a scald for up to 30 minutes after it is boiled.

Hot drink scalds can happen in seconds, often before the supervising adult realises that the child is reaching for the hot drink until it is too late to stop them.

Each year 37,000 children are injured in burn/ scald accidents (Hospital Episode Statistics UK 2002):

  • Of those 28,000 (76%) are under five years of age.
  • 95% of the accidents occur at home - more than 50% in the kitchen.
  • Hot liquids cause 70% of all thermal injuries to children.
  • More than 3,500 children have scalds serious enough to require admission to specialised burns services each year (iBID 03-09), of which 55% are scalds.
  • That means that 180 children with scalds caused by hot drinks are seen in hospital every day in England and Wales.
  • In Bristol, with a catchment population of 5 million for this type of injury, 740  new burns in children were managed in 2009, of which 391 were scalds (53%) and 39% were hot drink related.

With the correct treatment and management most scalds will heal completely.

But even in these children the pain, experience for the child and the family as well as the inevitable costs are potentially life-changing.

A percentage of the scalds however will require skin grafting and result in a need for life-long scar therapy.

 

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