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Contemporary hazards in the home: keeping children safe from thermal injuries
  1. Toity Deave1,
  2. Trudy Goodenough2,
  3. Jane Stewart3,
  4. Elizabeth Towner2,
  5. Gosia Majsak-Newman4,
  6. Adrian Hawkins5,
  7. Carol Coupland6,
  8. Denise Kendrick6
  1. 1Centre for Child & Adolescent Health, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
  3. 3Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  4. 4Clinical Research and Trials Unit, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Norwich, UK
  5. 5Great Northern Children's Hospital, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, UK
  6. 6Department of Primary Care, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Toity Deave, Centre for Child & Adolescent Health, Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK; Toity.deave{at}


Objective To explore the knowledge and reported thermal injury prevention practices among parents of children aged 0–4 years in disadvantaged areas.

Methods Parents of pre-school children in Children's Centres in four study areas in England (Nottingham, Newcastle, Norwich and Bristol) were interviewed using a structured schedule. Interviews covered smoke alarms, bedtime routines, fire escape plans, other thermal prevention practices and parental knowledge of first aid.

Results Of the 200 respondents, most reported ownership of at least one smoke alarm (n=191, 96%), of which 95% were working. Half reported a fire prevention bedtime routine (n=105, 53%) or fire escape plan (n=81, 42%). Most parents had matches or lighters in the home (n=159, 80%), some stored where children under 5 years of age could reach them (n=30, 19%). There was a high prevalence of irons (n=188, 94%) and hair straighteners (n=140, 70%). A third of both devices were used daily. Just 17 (12%) parents reported leaving hair straighteners, when hot but not in use, in a heatproof bag. Knowledge of correct initial first aid for a small burn was good (n=165, 83%), but parents reported other potentially harmful actions, for example, applying ointment (n=44, 22%).

Conclusions Most families report at least one working smoke alarm, but many do not have fire escape plans or fire prevention bedtime routines. A number of reported practices could compromise child safety, such as storage of matches or lighters and leaving hair straighteners to cool unprotected. Reappraisal of health promotion messages, in light of new household consumables, is necessary.

  • Injury Prevention
  • Comm Child Health
  • Children's Rights
  • General Paediatrics

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