Preventing clothing-related burns in children

Burn injuries are dreadful for any person of any age, but arguably they are most horrific for our most vulnerable: children. In Australia as in many other countries, we have mandatory standards which regulate the design and labelling of children’s nightwear. Having grown up in a rural area where we heated our house (our melted marshmallows and burnt our toast) via an open fireplace, I am well aware how quickly clothing can catch fire. Therefore preventing these injuries is of vital importance. To prevent, we must understand, therefore I was pleased to see an interesting article by Harvey, Connolley and Harvey (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25435488).

The authors examined the clothing-burn-related hospitalisation data for the entire state of New South Wales from 1998-2013 inclusively, and report the following clothing-related burn statistics:

* 18% of burns were nightwear-related (despite our mandatory legislation)

* exposure to open flame the most common mechanism (open fire, cooking)

* 25% of clothing-related burn hospitalisations occurred amongst children aged 5-14 years

* nightwear-related burns decreased by approximately 7% per year, compared to other clothing (reduction of approximately 2% per year)

* accelerant use was reported in 27% of cases

Whilst difficulties with coding data in official records were identified, which leads to underestimation of the clothing-related burns burden for all persons, including children, the authors note the reduction in burns as a result of the mandatory legislation introduced in 1987. Further legislative efforts targeting all clothing, and education of parents and extended family members regarding clothing-related burns risk for children is also recommended, and these findings can help us all in our injury prevention efforts as we keep safe over the festive season.

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