x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Staying safe in the kitchen at Ramadan

As activity in the kitchen increases during Ramadan so does the risk of burns, which is why parents and caregivers need to be extra vigilant.

As preventable as they are, burns are one of the most common of childhood accidents. They are also among the most painful, and potentially disfiguring. Children's healing from even minor burns can be a prolonged process. For a child as young as three years old, skin grafts can leave scar that never fully heals.

All of which makes yesterday's report in The National that much more disturbing: each year during Ramadan the number of burn victims undergoing treatment in hospitals spikes. Data released by Health Authority - Abu Dhabi show that occupancy at burn units is nearing 85 per cent capacity, a 15 per cent rise compared to the rest of the year.

Doctors say the cause of this increase is clearly attributable to the rise in household activity during the Holy Month. As families gather to reflect, pray, fast and feast, dangers in the home - and particularly in the kitchen - surge in proportion.

Children are hard enough to keep track of on normal days. But with iftar and suhoor preparations - the hot stove-tops, the bubbling pots, the steaming grills - unattended youngsters have an increased risk of running into trouble. Burn incidents always creep in summer months as people are cooped up inside. But when summer and Ramadan coincide the risk of incident magnifies.

There are simple steps to protect people from these dangers. For starters, doctors say, slow down. Adults preparing daily meals, just like drivers racing home to break the fast, can be careless.

Marwan Al Zarouni, who heads the burn unit at Rashid Hospital in Dubai, says basic precautions - like moving gas cylinders outside - can prevent unnecessary accidents. Grown-ups must also familiarise themselves with approved first-aid techniques (running cold water over a wound for 10 to 20 minutes can greatly reduce burn severity, for instance; slathering it with toothpaste or tomato paste, two urban legends, does not).

Children, meanwhile, are not able to process the dangers that a busy kitchen presents. As Dr Al Zarouni puts it: "Children are at home and they're looking for action - often in the wrong places." It's up to parents and caregivers to keep children from letting their curiosity get the better of them.