Halloween & Bonfire Night Safety
Halloween and Bonfire Night can be a magical time of year for kids. However, the combination of candles, sparklers, bonfires, costumes and small children can sometimes end in tears! Here’s some advice from Daisy First Aid about keeping the little ones safe whilst enjoying the celebrations.
Do you remember Claudia Winkleman’s daughter suffered burns in an accident at Halloween? Matilda had been out trick or treating with friends, wearing a costume that Claudia had bought at a supermarket. The costume caught fire on a candle inside a pumpkin that had been left on the front step. Matilda had to be taken to hospital and treated for severe burns.
The problem is that most of these costumes are made from man made fibres. These are cheap to produce, but as they are basically made from plastic they are flammable and melt when they burn (think of a match held next to a 5p carrier bag and you get the idea). At the moment, in law, costumes are regarded as toys rather than clothes, and so do not have to meet the requirements of fire safety standards for clothing. Pressure is increasing for this to change.
So what can you do?
If you’re buying a costume at the supermarket, check the labels carefully. You are looking for ‘flame resistant’ fabrics. Many supermarkets are advertising that their costumes meet the higher safety standards required of children’s nightwear. Bear in mind however that even meeting these higher safety requirements does not make the costume completely safe. Recent tests have shown that some of these costumes can still easily catch light. Have a good look at it yourself – is it a flimsy, floaty fabric?
Natural fabrics like wool and cotton are much slower to burn and will char rather than melt if they do catch fire. You could use a long sleeved top and bottoms in a natural fabric as a ‘base layer’ for a costume, to provide some protection next to the skin. Cotton pyjamas would work well.
Even better – make your own! That way you are completely in control. The end result may not look as professional as the shop bought variety, but the kids will love helping to create a Hallowe’en masterpiece!
Keep any naked flames well out of children’s reach. Never leave a burning candle unsupervised, and make sure it is on a fireproof surface. You can get LED tea lights now that make a great alternative to real candles. They also won’t char your pumpkin lanterns!
First Aid Treatment
If despite your best efforts, an accident happens and someone gets burnt, act quickly. If a child’s costume is alight, their instinct will be to run. Grab them and roll them on the ground to smother the flames. If you can, wrap them in a cotton or wool blanket, towel or heavy coat to help put the fire out quicker.
For any burn, the rule is –
Get the burnt area immediately under cool running water for AT LEAST ten minutes. The water doesn’t have to be freezing cold, just cool water is fine. The quicker you can do this, the better. Whilst it’s under the tap, assess the size and thickness of the burn. A superficial burn is red and sore and affects only the top layer of the skin (think sunburn). A partial thickness burn will blister. A full thickness burn will look like raw flesh. This type of burn may not hurt as much, as the nerve endings have been burnt away. It is the most serious type though and will always require hospital treatment.
Remove any watches, jewellery etc and any loose clothing. This is because the burnt area may start to swell. If there is any fabric etc stuck in the burn however, don’t pull it out. Leave this for the medical professionals to deal with.
Once the burn is cooled, you need to cover it to prevent infection. The best burns dressing is good old clingfilm! It is sterile and won’t stick to the burnt skin. Just wrap it loosely round the burn. You don’t need any sprays, lotions etc – these will probably do more harm than good. You may have been told that Nana would have put butter on it. For once, Nana was wrong! Butter (or any fatty substance) will trap the heat inside and may prevent proper healing. And don’t pop any blisters! They are protecting the new skin as it forms under the blister.
Seek medical advice.
Always do this if the burn is on a child’s hands, feet, face or genital area, or if the burn goes all the way around a limb. Go to hospital if a superficial burn is bigger than 5% of the child’s body, or a partial thickness burn is bigger than 1% of a child’s body. A child’s palm is roughly 1% of the area of their body, so use this as a guide. Always call 999 for a full thickness burn.
So have a great Halloween, and stay safe!
Written by Rachel Allen, Daisy First Aid West Herts & Surrounds.