Alfie Vance

"Too Hot to Handle" – beware of hair straightener burns to children

"Too Hot to Handle... an ongoing problem in the Emergency Department" is a campaign which RoSPA has been involved in alongside Home Accident Prevention Northern Ireland (HAPNI) and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, to raise awareness of hair straightener burns to children.

The Northern Ireland campaign, funded with £5,000 from the Electrical Safety Council (ESC), was officially launched at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children on October 15, 2012. The launch followed a rise in the number of children attending A&E at the Children's Hospital with hair straightener burns.

Launch of the Northern Ireland campaign.

L-R Back row:

Dr Tom Bourke (RBHSC), Kathryn O’Neill (Beam Creative Network), Albert Smallwoods (president HAPNI), Ita McErlean (RoSPA home safety manager NI), Dr Julie-Ann Maney (RBHSC), Tom Mullarkey (RoSPA CEO).

L-R Front row: Judith O’Connell (deputy director Electrical Safety Council) and Grace McErlean (age 4).

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. 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.

To demonstrate this, a short video clip will be shown in the A&E waiting areas of the Children's Hospital:

The aims of the 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.

Download the poster for the campaign for free here.

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