A few years ago, I met a lovely older woman. She was energetic, enthusiastic about the organization she ran; she was positive. She was also missing several fingers and half her face was severely scarred. Chaya Malka, herself, was severely burned as a young woman, and decades later, she still bears the internal and physical scars. However, she has dedicated her life to educating others about proper burn treatment and, most importantly, prevention. Before we enter into Chanukah, with its festivity of candles and oil, I wanted to take a moment to review crucial acts you can take to prevent disaster.
Quick fact: Last year alone, over 1,800 children were rushed to the ER with severe burns. Six percent of those burns were fatal. [http://www.beterem.org]. Burns are one of the leading causes of childhood accidents and hospitalizations in Israel.
About ten years ago, I had my own story with a serious burn. It was late afternoon. I was tired, sitting on the couch not four feet from my four-year-old and six-year-old. My older daughter had decided she wanted to make tea for everyone, and I, exhausted from a long day, thought ‘what a great idea; they’ll entertain themselves’. Now, I knew about preventing burns in children. We had all grown up with the story of my cousin who had pulled a full tea kettle on himself one morning and had to spend days in the hospital. As an adult, he would show us his scars.
I never ate hot soup or coffee with a child on my lap. I kept hot foods and liquids off the table.
Well, two flimsy disposable hot cups, an elbow knock and a small spat later, I was holding my four-year-old daughter’s leg under the cold water as she screamed in my ear. As soon as I saw the thick red blistering on her thigh, I knew we needed more help.
When and where do you go for a burn? Children’s skin is less durable than adults, making it imperative to get proper treatment. Smaller burns can be treated by rinsing in cold water, applying a cream and bandage (after the pain subsides). If the burn covers a larger part of the skin, or is blistering and /or oozing, your best bet is to go to an emergency clinic, either Terem or the kupah on duty clinic. If the child is unconscious, or the burn covers a large part of their body, go right to the ER.
It is always a good idea to have the addresses of those clinics on your fridge.
I was certainly caught unawares by my daughter’s burn; we were new to the area but I had remembered there was an emergency clinic nearby. That was one long drive. The rest of the kids buckled in their car seats as my little daughter screamed her way there, keeping the wet towel on her leg as instructed.
In the end, we didn’t have to go to the hospital. My daughter suffered second and third-degree burns on her thigh, which were treated for weeks with silverol, poly-mem , and bandaging. Today, all that she has to show for our adventure is a small scar.
Thanks to Chaya Malka, many children with more serious burns are receiving help and support they need. Below is a list of quick tips to remind us how to prevent burns in children. (from Chaya Malka Burn Foundation http://cmburnfoundation.com.)
- Keep matches out of the reach of children.
- Keep curtains away from candles and fires on the stove.
- Keep children away from the stove, candles, and hot liquids even while sitting on your lap!
- Turn pot handles on the stove inward.
- Place coffee and hot water urns, crock pots, and their cords far away from children’s reach.
- Keep baby strollers and high chairs far away from hot liquids.
- Install smoke & carbon dioxide detectors and change batteries every 6 months.
- Keep tablecloth corners short to prevent toddlers and strollers from pulling down hot liquids.
- Keep a fire extinguisher accessible at all times in your home.