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Seniors & Fire Safety – Part 2

When a fire department brings up the topic of burn injuries most people immediately think about a burn caused by fire. Burn injuries caused in fires are usually extremely severe and very often fatal, fortunately they are also far from the most common cause of burn injuries. Last week we touched upon burns caused by stoves catching loose clothing on fire, this week we will be looking at some more common causes of burns that are often overlooked.


Electric heating pads are often used by seniors to sooth a sore back or arthritic joint, unfortunately they are also often over used to the point of causing damage. A heating pad is intended to be used for temporary relief and for short periods of time. When using a heating pad you should remain alert and awake, and never use one in bed or if you feel you might fall asleep. Heating pads have been the cause of some very bad burn injuries on people who have chosen to use their heating pads in bed. If you do need to use an electric heating pad, look for one with an automatic shut-off feature that turns the heating element off after a period of time. A good alternative to the electric models are microwavable pads that loose heat over time or a hot water bottle, the loss of heat allows the skin to cool and avoids causing tissue damage. If the heating pad is being used for therapeutic purposes, temporary heat is all that is needed. Applying heat for excessively long periods of time is not necessary and increases the likelihood of a burn.


Most burn injuries in the home are the result of scalds and most of these injuries are happening to children under the age of five. After children, seniors are the second group in society that suffers the most scald injuries. A scald can easily be caused by the spilling of a hot cup of coffee or even a bowl of soup. Scalds can also be caused by the hot water from our own taps, most hot water tanks are set at 60 degrees Celsius, sufficiently hot enough to cause a serious burn. A child can actually experience a third degree burn within seconds in water at that temperature. Many health units across Canada have recommended that hot water tanks have the setting lowered to 49 degrees Celsius to avoid these types of injuries.


Next week we will be looking at a difficult topic; when can a senior no longer safely care for themselves and what are some of the signs?

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