By KATHERINE HOBY
A spate of burn injuries in the north has prompted St John to warn people of the need for vigilance around hazards at home and at work.
Each winter, ambulance officers see horrific injuries caused by fires, heaters and radiators.
They also get 111 callouts to burns caused by lighters and matches, hot water and cooking utensils.
Workplaces can be as hazardous as the home.
Sandy Macaulay, director of education services for St John Northern, says that while people should always dial 111 in an emergency, prevention is less painful than cure.
"Education is a way to prevent burn harm to your family or work colleagues."
Education can range from simply explaining to children that they can be hurt by fire, to attending courses that teach first-aid and how to recognise and reduce hazards.
"With the assistance of a St John instructor, you can learn what to do for burns and other trauma injuries so that if you are first on the scene in an emergency you can perform a vital role as a first-aider."
Ms Macaulay says almost everyone who attends a first-aid course has had a burn. Causes vary from extremes of temperature to chemicals or radiation.
Dry burns are caused by flame such as candles and hot electrical equipment such as irons. Steam, hot water and fat cause scalding.
"A not uncommon scenario is lifting a pan of vegies in boiling water from the stove and being bumped by a child running in the kitchen."
Chemical burns are caused by acids and alkalines when they come into contact with skin. These substances can be found at home as well as in industry.
St John instructors describe a nasty work hazard: a worker being burned as he reaches for a chemical bottle on a high shelf. The bottle has a loose lid and the contents spill on his upper body.
Sun rays and light reflected from bright surfaces can cause radiation burns to the skin and eyes. Poor eye protection during welding can cause a burn called welder's flash.
Cold burns can result from contact with metals and freezing conditions. Freezing agents such as liquid oxygen and nitrogen can cause cold burns.
You can burn your hand on an ice-cube tray when taking it from the freezer.
Electrical burns are caused by currents and lightning. The heat generated can burn skin and underlying tissue.
"Electrical burns can be very serious as the heart can be stopped by the electric current," says Ms Macaulay,
"Often these type can cause entry and exit burns with serious tissue damage between the two points."
Burns are categorised by the area and depth of the injury.
If the burn covers an area greater than 2-3cm in diameter or is deeper than the surface of the skin or the result of electrical contact, the casualty should be taken to hospital or referred to a doctor.
Ms Macaulay says people can learn what to do for burns and other trauma injuries by enrolling in a St John first-aid course. Phone 0800 FIRST AID or 0800 34778 243.
St John's health services sales manager, Chris Morten, says a first-aid kit is a must. "Every home should have one and every car should have one."
Workplaces must have the kits by law.
The exact treatment depends on the severity, but the general treatment is the same:
* Reassure the victim.
* Place the injured part under slowly running water for at least 10 minutes. You can also immerse the injured part in cold water if no running water is available. "In the first instance even milk, beer, cordial or soft drink will suffice," says Sandy Macaulay, director of education services for St John Northern.
* If the pain persists, keep the injured part under cold water for longer.
* Do not break blisters, remove any loose skin or otherwise interfere with the injured area.
* Do not apply lotions, ointments or packs unless specifically designed for burns.
* Do not use adhesive dressing.
* Gently remove restrictive clothing and jewellery from the injured area before it starts to swell.
By KATHERINE HOBY