15 October 2012
A new campaign has been launched today (October 15) in Northern Ireland to raise awareness of the dangers hair straighteners can pose to children, causing burns which can require hospital admission and surgical intervention, including plastic surgery.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Home Accident Prevention Northern Ireland (HAPNI) are working in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust on the Too Hot to Handle campaign, following a rise in the number of children attending A&E at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children with hair straightener burns.
The campaign, funded with £5,000 from the Electrical Safety Council (ESC), was officially launched in the main reception of the hospital by RoSPA’s chief executive Tom Mullarkey. Key speakers at the launch included Pat McCartan, chairman of the Trust, Dr Julie-Ann Maney, consultant in paediatric emergency medicine at the Children’s Hospital, Ita McErlean, RoSPA’s home safety manager in Northern Ireland, Conor McCleave, vice chair of HAPNI and Judith O’Connell, deputy director general at the ESC.
Figures from the Children’s Hospital show that 17 children aged between three months and nine years attended A&E at the hospital in 2009-10 with hair straightener burns. This represented nine per cent of the 187 children who attended with “thermal injuries” during that year. The average age of the children admitted with hair straightener burns was 18 months.
Hair straighteners can reach temperatures in excess of 200 degrees – hot enough to fry an egg – and can take as long as 40 minutes to cool down. At the launch, Beam Creative Network will play a short video clip demonstrating this in action, which will be shown in the A&E waiting areas of the Children’s Hospital.
Horrific burn injuries can occur very quickly to children because their skin can be 15 times thinner than adults. The most common location for a child to sustain a serious hair straightener burn is on their hand, but injuries have also been sustained to the head, arm and foot.
RoSPA, the Trust and the ESC are working together to raise awareness of these injuries and to demonstrate how they can be prevented, by following a simple safety code: switching hair straighteners off and unplugging them straight away, before sliding them into a heat resistant bag, and storing them out of the sight and reach of children.
The aims of the Too Hot to Handle...an ongoing problem in the Emergency Department campaign, which will run until March 2013, include targeting health and social care students through workshops and encouraging them to pass on the safety messages to others; organising local events to reach parents, other practitioners and young people through the Child Safety Check Scheme run by home safety officers; and lobbying major manufacturers/retailers to supply heat resistant bags with the hair straighteners they sell.
Ita McErlean, RoSPA’s home safety manager in Northern Ireland, said: “It doesn’t always take a flame to burn and it is easy to forget that hair straighteners remain hot for a good period of time, even after use. Turning hair straighteners off and storing them in a heat resistant bag out of the sight and reach of inquisitive children, is a simple way to ensure that the risk of receiving a nasty burn is reduced.”
Dr Julie-Ann Maney, consultant in paediatric emergency medicine at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, said: “Hair straightener burns are preventable. The Too Hot to Handle campaign will highlight how dangerous these devices are, particularly to small children and that the public need to be aware of the horrific injuries that can be sustained. We are delighted to launch this campaign in association with RoSPA and the ESC to improve awareness and to prevent further injuries.”
Phil Buckle, director general at the Electrical Safety Council, said: “The ESC is delighted to support the Too Hot to Handle campaign. Our grants funding schemes mean that we can work with organisations like RoSPA Northern Ireland to raise awareness of electrical dangers in the home and to change people’s behaviour so that they act more responsibly around electricity.
“Electrical goods are now common items in people’s homes, so it is essential that they understand the risks associated with products like hair straighteners, particularly when they are using them around children. By taking the simple steps suggested in the campaign, people will be able to protect themselves and their families."