Posted on February 07, 2018

With temperatures across some areas of Qatar forecast to fall below 150C in the coming weeks, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is offering advice on safe heating practices to help residents stay warm and safe.

“With the cold weather, some residents have begun using additional means to stay warmer at home and at bath time. Unfortunately, this may lead to a rise in the number of patients with injuries from their heating systems. These include scald injuries, electrical or contact burns from fire or gas heaters and even serious flame burns from house fires,” said Dr. Rafael Consunji, Director of the Hamad Injury Prevention Program (HIPP), which is the community outreach arm of the Hamad Trauma Center.

Dr. Consunji explained that electrical burns and fires are more likely to happen with the incorrect use of electrical appliances for heating, while scald burns most often happen when bathing or cooking with hot liquids. “Most victims of scald burns are very young or the elderly, because they are unable to physically remove themselves from the scalding liquid’s path, and because their skin is generally much thinner and more sensitive to high temperatures. They can sustain severe scald burns within a few seconds, and in recent weeks we have seen an increase in the number of infants seeking treatment for scald burns,” he said.

The HIPP recommends the following precautions when using electrical or space heaters:

  1. Purchase an electrical or space heater from a reputable store and check it is ‘UL’ certified or equivalent to ensure it meets international standards for safety.
  2. Keep anything that can burn such as curtains, tablecloths, blankets, and bedding at least one meter away from heating equipment.
  3. Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater or portable radiator) into one electrical outlet at a time; electrical heaters are high-power devices that must be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Plugging them into an extension cord can cause the fuse to blow, or worse, overheat and melt devices or wiring, which can lead to a house fire.
  4. Kid-free zones and certified 2 [].jpgHave a one-meter wide designated ‘kid-free zone’ around open fires and space heaters. If possible, position space heaters in an area that is inaccessible to young children and toddlers, under 4 years of age, and teach older children to avoid them. Keep heaters away from heavily trafficked zones or play areas.
  5. Make sure that automatic timers on heaters are working properly. Make use of these to limit the time that the unit is fully powered. Remember to always turn portable heaters off when leaving any room or before going to bed. This reduces the risk of overheating and fire.

Dr. Consunji also shared his five top tips for preventing scald burns, adding that parents and caregivers should avoid carrying a child and a hot beverage at the same time. “This is one of the most common causes of a child getting scald burns from hot liquids. Use a travel mug or cup with a lid to reduce the chance of spillage,” he suggests.

Tips for the prevention of scald burns:

  1. To avoid serious burn injuries or even drowning, never leave your child, particularly those under one year of age, unsupervised in the bath. Your presence within an arm’s length at all times is the best defense against accidental scalding or drowning of infants and young children during bath time.
  2. When bathing children, especially infants, bath water must be mixed thoroughly so it has a uniform temperature. ‘Hot spots’ within the bath can cause scald burns. Also test the water temperature before putting your infant into the bath – it should be no more than 45°C.
  3. Do not fill the tub with your child in it, and repeatedly check the water temperature during your child’s bath to ensure it remains at a safe temperature. If using a shower or faucet to bathe your child, do not put the child in the water stream without first checking the water temperature. Be aware that water temperatures may fluctuate while the shower or faucet is running and this may cause scald burns, especially in very young children with thinner skin.
  4. Keep children out of the kitchen when cooking, especially with hot liquids like soups, stews, and even coffee/tea. Again, create a ‘kid-free zone’ within the house/kitchen so they know that they should not play in these areas.
  5. When moving containers with hot foods or liquids, let your child know, i.e. say ‘I am walking with a hot pot of soup’.