Hair straighteners and hot drinks are leading causes of burns and scalds in young children, with injuries peaking around the age of one as babies gain independent mobility. That’s the conclusion of a comprehensive study published in February 2014 in the Archive of Disease in Childhood.

The most common way for a young child to be scalded is them reaching up and pulling down a drink from a table or counter that is higher than they are. This means the resulting injuries are generally to the upper body. Because hot liquid spreads, the injury covers a much wider surface area than a contact burn.  A serious scald will require extensive treatment – often involving skin grafts and rehabilitation. The impact will be felt for years to come.

The study, published last month made a strong case for helping parents better understand the links between child development and childhood accidents. One of its authors, Professor Alison Kemp from Cardiff University said:

“The peak prevalence started at nine months, when independent mobility begins, infants are exploring their environment without the awareness of dangers… parents appear to be unready for this developmental stage in terms of preventative strategies. They may underestimate the potential reach height of their toddler.”

Burns and scalds injuries are very painful, can take years of treatment and scar for life, but they can easily be prevented, if parents are prepared. The study urges: “children’s centres, health visitors and family nurse practitioners to address safety education as a matter of routine”.

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