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Burns and Scalds

Body functions decline as we age. As a result, older people often have poorer vision, hearing, and sense of smell. They may also suffer from slower reaction, weaker balance, and poorer memory. All these functional changes, if coupled with carelessness and illnesses, can increase the risk of home accidents in the elderly, especially burns and scalds which can result in injuries of varying severity ranging from minor skin damage to death. Therefore, older people should take special precautions in their daily living to minimize accidents.

Prevention of Burns and Scalds

The following are some tips for prevention of scald injury caused by steam, hot water, hot soup or hot oil, and burn injury caused by hot utensils, flames, cigarettes, etc.

1. Using cooking utensils

  • Lift the hot lid of the utensils carefully to avoid being scalded by the steam.
  • Turn the pot handles away from you to prevent it from being toppled over by accident.
  • Use a whistling pot to boil water to reduce the chance of forgetting.
  • Turn off the stove or hot water boiler before going out, answering telephone calls, or attending to visitors.

2. Carrying utensils

  • Do not directly hold the utensils that contain hot water, soup, or food.
  • Use oven mitts or towel to carry hot utensils

3. Using electrical appliances

  • Use household electrical appliances which are in full compliance with safety standards.
  • Always keep hands dry when touching the socket to prevent electric shock.
  • Do not use the same socket for multiple electrical appliances to prevent overload.
  • Check and replace old or damaged electrical wires. Do not repair broken wires by adhesive tape.

4. Storage and use of flammable objects or household chemicals

  • Do not put flammable objects or chemicals such as newspaper, gasoline or compressed spray (e.g. insecticides) near the stove.
  • Avoid direct contact with household chemicals such as bleach solution, and corrosive cleaners. Put on gloves when handling them. Keep the face and eyes away from the chemicals to prevent injury due to accidental spilling of the chemicals.

5. Performing daily activities

  • Prepare cold water first before adding hot water for bathing.
  • When using hot water bottle, fill it to no more than 3/4 full and plug tightly. Check for any leakage and protect with a cover before use.
  • When using ice packs, wrap the ice pack with a towel before applying it to the skin. Never use ice packs for more than 15 minutes.
  • Do not smoke in bed to prevent fire.

6. During outdoor activities

  • Avoid exposure under direct sunlight to prevent sunburn.
  • Apply sunscreen, wear long-sleeved clothes, protective headgear and sun-glasses for skin and eye protection.

How to Manage Burns and Scalds?

The most important first aid for burns and scalds is to reduce skin temperature, pain and prevent wound infection. Below are some tips for managing burns and scalds.

  • Keep calm.
  • Immerse or rinse the wound with cold water for at least 10 minutes to reduce temperature and pain.
  • Do not apply ice pack directly to the wound to avoid further tissue damage.
  • Remove objects such as watches, wristbands, rings, tight clothing, belts, boots or shoes as the wound may become swollen.
  • Do not remove clothes stuck to the wound because it may tear away the skin and increase the risk of infection.
  • Do not pierce the blisters to prevent wound infection.
  • Do not apply herbal oil, toothpaste, soya sauce, lotion, soap or cooking oil to the wound to avoid irritation and further damage to the tissues.
  • Cover the wound with sterile lint-free dressing or clear cling film for protection.
  • Do not put adhesive materials like cotton wool swab or adhesive bandages directly on the wound.

The above tips are mainly for managing minor burn and scald injuries. If the injury is serious, the victim should be brought to the hospital for treatment as soon as possible.