QLD: Safety campaign aims to halt rise in burns to children

18 Oct 2012

Each week in Queensland a child suffers serious burns from hair straighteners. That’s the stark reality behind the Queensland, Office of Fair Trading’s latest safety campaign, Straight off, straight out of reach.

Queensland Fair Trading product safety expert Dave Strachan said the majority of burns from hair straighteners treated by Queensland hospitals were to toddlers aged between six months and two years old, and approximately 40 per cent of those admitted required long term scar management*.

“Hair straighteners are designed to heat up to very high temperatures very quickly, and maintain that heat across the plates. They can reach temperatures of up to 200 degrees in just minutes, and take more than 30 minutes to cool down to a temperature that’s safe for curious little hands,” Mr Strachan said.

“Unfortunately people tend to leave these devices on benches or on the floor during use or to cool down, thinking it’s safer than putting them up in the cupboard still hot. As a result, burns are mainly to the hands as inquisitive toddlers grab the devices.

Straight off, straight out of reach aims to raise awareness among parents and carers of the dangers of hair straighteners to small children and give them practical advice on how to protect their family.”

According to Queensland - Brisbane - Royal Children’s Hospital Burns Unit Burns Prevention Officer Belinda Wallis, 80 per cent of hair straightener burns treated at the Royal Children’s Hospital were to children under five years old and ranged from superficial to full thickness burns.

“Many people don’t realise how dangerous hair straighteners are to unsupervised children – the fact is they can still cause a full thickness burn ten minutes after they have been turned off,” said Ms Wallis.

“The main injuries we see at the Royal Children’s Hospital are to the forearms and hands, where toddlers have grasped or pulled down a hair straightener that was on or cooling, and to the feet or lower legs where a child has stepped or sat on one.

“Many of these injuries are long lasting, requiring painful, ongoing surgery to keep little hands and feet functional as they grow.

“No one wants to see their child go through that.”

Mr Strachan said there were some simple steps parents could take to prevent their child suffering a potentially horrendous and painful injury.

“First and foremost, never leave a hot hair straightener unattended,” he said.

“If you are not using your hair straightener, or need to leave it unattended, turn it straight off and put it straight out of reach. A bench or table is not good enough – put it in a heat proof bag on a high shelf that is out of reach of young hands.”

Ms Wallis said immediate first aid was vitally important in the event of a burn injury.

“Cool the burn under cold running water for 20 minutes, and then seek medical help,” she said.

“This is particularly important if the burn is on the hands, face or buttocks area; is blistered or white; or is larger than a 50 cent piece.”

For more information on hair straightener safety or for a copy of the safety poster, visit www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au or call 13 QGOV (13 74 68).


* Figure provided by the Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research.

Contact details

Queensland Office of Fair Trading - Department of Justice and Attorney-General

Media contact: Vanessa Kendall - (07) 3247 5968

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