Men aged between 26 and 40 are the demographic group most likely to suffer burns, according to statistics from Netcare, the largest private hospital network in South Africa. The release of the data coincides with National Burns Awareness Week, which runs from 6 to 12 May.
“Interestingly, of the 1 859 male burns patients treated at Netcare hospitals between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015, over a third (34%) fell into the 26 to 40 age group. This could suggest that many of these injuries are work related. It could also be as a result of men tending to be more inclined to take risks than women,” says Mande Toubkin, general manager trauma and emergency at Netcare.
Netcare’s national burns data shows that during the period under review, Netcare hospitals cared for
3 206 burns patients, 58% of whom were male.
“Eleven per cent of the patients (354) were categorised as critically injured, while a further 60% of patients (1 906) were seriously injured,” Toubkin observes.
Many of the most severe injuries are treated at Netcare Milpark Hospital burns unit, which – as the only dedicated private burns unit in the country – receives referrals from all over South Africa and the African continent.
The unit’s manager, Katinka Rheeder, says there is no clear seasonal spike in patient numbers: “In the private healthcare sector, at least, the risk of burns is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.”
Netcare Milpark Hospital’s trauma programme manager, Rene Grobler, explains that better patient outcomes are achieved where patients with serious burn injuries receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible. “It is important to highlight that Netcare Milpark Hospital is the first private hospital to be accredited as a level one trauma centre by the Trauma Society of South Africa and has the only private burns unit in the country. This level of care can make a profound difference in the recovery of our patients, in that they benefit from world-class burns treatment.”
While almost a third (32% or 1 029) of burns patients were aged between 26 and 40, Toubkin says that the age groups of two to 12 years (554) and 13 to 25 years (552) each accounted for 17% of burn patients – which is lower than expected, but still represents a significant statistic. Fifteen per cent (493) of patients were aged between 41 and 55 years.
Nearly a third (30%) of patients treated were burned by hot water, yet many people do not realise the risks associated with this household necessity. “The tragedy is that many of the burns injuries could have been prevented had simple precautions been taken,” Rheeder says.
“People should seriously consider reducing the temperature of their geysers, and should never first run hot water on its own into a bath, as this significantly reduces the chances of scalding injuries. Kettles, urns, portable cooking appliances and their cords should also be kept well out of reach of children, as should pots and containers with hot liquids,” she cautions.
“While hot water was by far the leading cause of burns overall, the proportions of fire-related burns (11.7%) and chemical burns (11%) were also significant,” Toubkin observes.
Burns treatment is a highly specialised field that should involve a wide range of specialists, including physicians and reconstructive experts, specialised nursing staff, as well as trauma psychologists to support patients, their families as well as staff working in the burns unit.
Netcare Milpark Hospital’s burns unit was established in August 2008. With eight isolation cubicles, the ward is designed to prevent the possibility of cross infection. Each patient in the burns unit benefits from dedicated nursing 24 hours a day.
“The majority of burns patients, even those with burns over more than 70% of their bodies, can be successfully treated if they are admitted timeously to a specialised burns centre, such as Netcare Milpark Hospital’s burns unit,” Grobler concludes.
First aid for everyday burns
Dos and don’ts of burns first aid
While each burn is different, here are a few rules of thumb that can help to reduce the severity of the injury.
Familiarise yourself, your family, colleagues and staff with these guidelines. Consider retaining this clipping and placing it on your refrigerator, on notice boards or inside a cupboard door for easy reference. Glancing at these lists in your everyday life will help you to remember the basic principles of burn first aid.
If the person’s clothes have caught fire you should:
- get them to roll on the ground;
- smother the flames with a non-flammable blanket; or
- douse them with water or spray them with a fire extinguisher, depending on the substance that caused the burn.
Look after your own safety
- Switch off electricity if the patient has an electrical burn and is still in contact with the electrical source, before assisting the patient.
- When extinguishing flames on a patient, be careful that your own clothing does not catch fire.
- In the case of a chemical burn, use protective eyewear and gloves.
Cool the burn area
- Run cold water over the affected area.
- Do this for at least 10 to 15 minutes in the case of minor to moderate burns.
- Running the burn under cold water for a long time may help to limit the damage to deeper skin tissues.
- Chemical burns also benefit from running cold water over them, as this can help to dilute the harmful substance.
Get the patient to an appropriate medical facility
- Get to know the hospitals in your area and find out whether they offer burns trauma treatment BEFORE you are faced with a burns emergency.
- Wrap the patient in a clean sheet and take them to the medical facility or call an ambulance, whichever will be quicker and more appropriate in the circumstances.
Call for advice and assistance:
- Call an emergency medical service provider as soon as it is practical to do so.
- As each burn is different, give the call taker at the emergency operations centre as much information as possible. This will help them to give you the most appropriate advice.
- Netcare 911 (082 911) has one of the most advanced emergency operations centres in the southern hemisphere; with trained call takers to give advice and dispatch emergency medical personnel to the scene.
Do not attempt to apply any substances to the burn
- Do not put ice on the burn, as this can further damage the tissue.
- Do not put oily substances, pastes, turmeric, egg white, toothpaste or topical ointments on the burn.
- Do not press cotton wool or fluffy material directly onto the burn as this could increase the chance of infection. However, you can use a Burnshield dressing, which is available at pharmacies.
- In the case of extensive burns, do not cool with water for too long because this could cause hypothermia.
Never peel off or open blistered skin, as this could expose the patient to infection.
Never underestimate the severity of a burn. Rather, consult a medical professional.
Reference: Netcare 911 and World Health Organization
Note to editors:
The statistics are for patients treated at Netcare hospitals. National burns statistics related to gender, age group and type of burns may differ from the patterns reflected in Netcare’s data.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Wilson or Meggan Saville
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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