Did you know that every year, thousands of children and adults suffer accidental injuries due to heating system contact burns and hot water scalds? The 14th October is National Burn Awareness Day, an annual event aimed at reducing the number of burns and scalds occurring in the UK every single day.
The theme for this year’s National Burn Awareness Day is the correlation between social deprivation and the number of children sustaining life-altering burn injuries. As well as the risk of firework injuries and fires outside the home to young people in the 15 – 24-year age group.
A burn or scald injury is for life. The scars are physical as well as psychological, and can present life-long challenges for the individual and their families. What many people don’t know is that children and the elderly are the most vulnerable, and the majority of injuries occur as a result of an accident in the home that could so easily have been prevented.
Sadly plumbing and heating systems contribute to a number of avoidable burns and scalds each year. According to the latest figures from NHS Digital, in the last year the number of heating system related burns and tap water scalds has taken a sharp rise. With the government encouraging us to stay at home and the heating season upon us, it’s particularly prudent that National Burn Awareness Day highlights the hidden dangers in our homes.
According to the latest NHS Digital Hospital Episode Statistics for England (2019-2020):
- Admissions for burn injuries caused via contact with heating appliances, radiators and pipes rose by 25% from 797 (2018-2019) to 999 admissions (2019-2020).
- Likewise, finished consultant episodes for heating burns were up by 24% from 838 to 1042 over the same period.
- A staggering 878 - nearly 88% - of heating appliance burn admissions were emergencies.
- Children aged 0-14 made up 28% of finished consultant episodes, while those over 70 made up 36%. If you combine these figures, nearly 65% of burns from heating appliances afflicted children and the elderly.
Sadly, it’s all too easy for radiators, towel warmers and central heating pipes to reach temperatures high enough to cause a burn if touched. It seems that with us all having to spend more time at home, the risk of becoming a burn or scald statistic this winter is rising. Worryingly, the peril of scalds from hot tap water has grown also:
- Admissions from scald injuries from taps has increased by nearly 9% from 635 cases (2018-2019) to 693 cases (2019-2020).
- In turn, finished consultant episodes grew by 648 to 714 over the same period, a rise of 10%.
- Alarmingly 561 admissions - nearly 81% - were classed as emergencies.
- And sadly yet again, children and the elderly are the most at risk, with children in the 0-14 age range accounting for nearly 38% of finished consultant episodes and the over 70’s accounting for nearly 21%. These numbers combined account for 58% of scalds from taps.
According to figures from Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) hot bath water is responsible for the highest number of fatal and severe scalding injuries among young children.
However, the good news is that if we open our eyes to the dangers around us, the number of those receiving accidental burns and scalds should fall. And so, when it comes to reducing hot water scald injuries, the CIPHE has the following advice:
1) When filling up the bath, always run the cold water tap before you turn on the hot tap.
2) If your home does not have them already, installing Thermostatic Mixing Valves (TMVs) will greatly reduce the risk of scalds, as the devices mix water to a safe controlled temperature at the outlet.
3) Remember to have your TMVs (and all of your plumbing system) regularly serviced.
4) Upgrade your shower to a model that includes a built-in TMV.
5) Consider installing low surface temperature radiators or radiator covers if you have particularly vulnerable people within your home.
6) Ensure exposed heating system pipes or elements are covered or out of each of vulnerable householders.
If you are on social media, you can get involved in this year's event too. Simply use the hashtags #BeBurnsAware in your posts to help spread the word.
Find out more on Burn Injury Awareness Day via the Children’s Burn Trust website.
You can find out more on scalding, Thermostatic Mixing Valves (TMVs) and general water safety on our burns and scalds page.
If you want professional advice on installing TMVs or ensuring the safety of your heating and hot water system, call in your CIPHE registered plumbing or heating engineer. Find one online via the CIPHE's find-a-plumber directory.