With a rise in patients seeking treatment for injuries sustained from heating systems, the Hamad Injury Prevention Program (HIPP) has shared tips that can help residents of Qatar to stay safe while keeping warm during the winter season.
“With the persistent cold weather, some residents of Qatar have used additional means to stay warmer at home and at bath time. Unfortunately, we have been seeing a rise in the number of patients with injuries due to accidents with their heating system. These include scald injuries, electrical or contact burns, and even serious flame burns from house fires,” said Dr. Rafael Consunji, Director of the HIPP, which is the community outreach arm of the Hamad Trauma Center.
Dr. Consunji explained that electrical burns and fires are more likely to happen with the incorrect use of electrical appliances for heating, while scald burns most often happen when bathing or cooking with hot liquids. “Most victims of scald burns are very young or elderly, because they are unable to physically remove themselves from the scalding liquid’s path, and because their skin is much thinner and more sensitive to high temperatures. They can sustain severe scald burns within just a few seconds,” he said. The HIPP shares the following basic recommendations when using electrical or space heaters:
- Make sure you purchase an electrical or space heater from a reputable store and that the product is ‘UL’ certified, or its equivalent. This will certify that the heater meets international standards for safety.
- Electrical heaters are high-power devices that must be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Plugging them into an extension cord, especially those with multiple outlets, can lead to an overload of the electrical system. This can cause the fuse to blow, or worse, overheating and melting of devices or wiring, which can in turn lead to a house fire.
- Heaters must be positioned far away from combustible materials such as curtains, tablecloths, blankets and beddings. At least a three-feet or one-meter distance is recommended.
- Children should be taught to avoid space heaters as they can be a significant source of heat to cause contact burns. Keep heaters away from busy zones such as corridors or play areas.
- Make sure that automatic timers on the heaters are working. Make use of these in order to limit the amount of time that the unit is fully powered. This reduces the risk of overheating and fire.
For the prevention of scald burns:
- Never leave your child, particularly those less than one year of age, unsupervised in the bathroom, to avoid serious burn injuries or even drowning. Being present within arm’s length at all times is the best prevention against accidental scalding or drowning of infants and young children during bath time.
- When bathing children, especially infants, the bathing water must be mixed thoroughly so it has a uniform temperature. ‘Hot spots’ within the bath can cause scald burns. Always take the water temperature (it must be no more than 45° C) or ‘hand-test’ before putting your infant in bath water.
- Do not fill the tub with your child in it and repeatedly feel the water temperature while your child is bathing.
- Keep children out of the kitchen when cooking, especially hot liquids. Create a ‘no children’ zone within the house/kitchen so they know not to play in these areas.
- Do not carry a child and a hot beverage at the same time – this is one of the most common circumstances which results in the child getting scald burns from hot liquids.
- When moving containers with hot food or liquids, announce yourself (‘I am walking with a hot pot of soup!’) and make sure you have a clear, child-free path before proceeding.