A paediatric surgeon from the Universitas Academic Hospital and the University of the Free State (UFS) has warned of an increase in burns and other injuries over the festive season, many of which are preventable. Dr Hilge du Preez shares her tips for preventing burns during the festive season.
According to Du Preez, who is a lecturer and medial specialist in the department of surgery at the UFS, fireworks and the festive season are synonymous.
Fireworks are a common culprit
Fireworks are regulated under the Explosives Act. This means that there are strict rules and laws to govern it.
Fireworks such as “Indian kings,” “square bombs” and “cherry bombs” are illegal and extremely dangerous, because it is essentially a small bomb and must not be purchased at all, she says.
“If you do not comply with the law, you might get a heavy fine, even prison time. We see severe injuries and even loss of limbs due to injuries caused by fireworks. We urge the community to rather be safe and stay far away from it. Fireworks may only be sold by legitimate dealers. We often see injuries due to fireworks that malfunction and that have been sold illegally. No person under the age of 16 is allowed to buy it. And no child must use it unsupervised,” says Du Preez.
According to her, there are designated areas where fireworks can be used safely. It may not be used in crowded areas, in other words, within neighbourhoods, also within 200m of a hospital, clinic, petrol station, nursing home, old age home, or animal welfare organisation.
How to keep safe in the summer
Du Preez, who also works at the Pelonomi Tertiary Hospital in Bloemfontein, says even though burns are more common during the cold winter months, they often see a spike in these injuries during the festive period.
“Children and adults get injured due to burns in different ways. Children often burn due to spilling hot liquid or food on themselves. We also see cases where children fall into a tub of hot water that is being prepared for a bath.”
Du Preez says when cooking, it is safer to have the pot and pan handles pointing inwards and not outwards where children can reach it; children must not be left unsupervised in the presence of hot substances, be it food or fire.
When running a bath for a child, put cold water into the tub first and then add hot water to get it to the right temperature. This is safer, because if a child then falls into the tub, they will only be cold and wet and not suffer a severe and even life-threatening injury.
Adults usually suffer severe burns due to flames. This might be due to house fires or falling into a fire. Paraffin stoves are responsible for the majority of house fires in our country.
Be safe Mzansi
The festive season is a time to be jolly and spend time with loved ones. This includes having a nice braai.
“We urge our community to take care around open fires. Alcohol abuse and flames do not mix. We often see people who have fallen or who become irresponsible with fire due to being intoxicated. Do not stand with your back towards the fire and don’t leave children unsupervised around fires.”
Some additional tips to assist in preventing fires include:
- Ensuring that all stoves are on a stable surface.
- Ensuring that candles are placed in a candleholder, or cutting a long candle in half to prevent it falling over.
- Discard cigarettes in a safe container and ensure they are completely put out.
- Keep a bucket with water handy to extinguish small fires when they start.
- Keep a bucket of sand nearby when using a paraffin appliance. Water will not put out a paraffin fire and can only be extinguished using sand or a fire extinguisher.
- All open fires must be extinguished before you leave the area or go to sleep.
- Ensure that there is enough ventilation when cooking food inside your dwelling.
- If your clothing catches fire, stop, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands and roll around of the floor to smother the flames.
- If another person catches fire, smother the flames by wrapping them in a blanket, mat or carpet.
- Never lock your door from the inside using a padlock; instead use a shooter for easy unlocking should a fire occur.
- Keep roads and the access to informal areas clear at all times so that emergency vehicles can move around easily.
It is common to see an increase in road accidents during the festive period. We urge the community to obey the rules of the road and to not drink and drive. Small children and babies must be secured in car seats. When travelling long distances, take regular breaks to prevent driver fatigue, says Du Preez.
“We also see a spike in interpersonal violence during the festive season. Perpetrators are very often known to victims and might even be a close family member or friend. And often these incidents are fuelled by alcohol. Let’s take care of each other and protect the vulnerable members of society. When you see abuse taking place or are a victim of abuse, reach out and get help.”
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