Writer Anthony Hasphall is a St John Ambulance Victoria training team manager.
Clare is a nurse and First Aid volunteer with St John, so you could say she’s more than skilled to respond to a medical emergency.
But she never imagined such an emergency might involve her baby son.
Suffering from a head cold, Clare was preparing a bowl of hot water and eucalyptus oil for herself when disaster struck last October. Her then seven-month old son Mitchell reached out of her arms and put his hand in the hot water. As he pulled his hand away, the bowl of hot water tipped over them both.
With a hysterical baby in her arms, Clare calmly got straight into the shower. Noticing nasty burns to Mitchell’s legs, she wrapped him in a cool towel and took him to the emergency ward at the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton. According to the medical team, her knowledge of burns First Aid treatment meant these quick-thinking actions prevented Mitchell from suffering any long-term scarring.
But could that really happen to me?
In my experience training thousands of people over the years in First Aid, including our own trainers, I hear time and time again that burns are one of the least understood and most painful injuries in childhood. Clare’s story is a timely and important reminder, and I’m so thankful that she had the confidence to respond correctly. She ultimately prevented Mitchell from having any lifelong scars.
But unfortunately, Australia’s knowledge of burns First Aid is not comprehensive enough, with new research by St John Ambulance Victoria showing just over half (56 per cent) of parents know how to properly treat burns. Despite the fact that burns from hot household items are the most common household injuries in Australia, with 60 per cent of adults and 22 per cent of children sustain burns in the home.
Parents are more likely to know old wives’ tales about how to treat burns than they are trusted medical advice. However, Clare’s story highlights that accidents happen at home more easily than people think, so knowing what to do is key!