Focus on... Burns and scalds

13 Nov 2013

Hot coffee splashing out of a cup

To mark the launch of our 2013 burns and scalds campaign, this month we focus on what approaches are most effective in spreading the message to parents.

Delegates attending CAPT’s burns and scalds conference in September were unanimous: one of the big barriers to their prevention work was engaging parents on an issue which they didn’t consider a priority.

Burns and scalds prevention in particular presents a challenge. Evidence shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are far more at risk, yet parents from disadvantaged backgrounds can be far harder to engage.

Dr Elizabeth Orton presented research at CAPT’s burns and scalds conference, from Nottingham University showing children from deprived households to be a staggering 80% more likely to have a scald compared to those in better-off homes.

Ken Dunn, Consultant Burns and Plastic Surgeon, Manchester Burn Service also pointed out the link between risk and deprivation when he told delegates that: ‘Burns incidents have more to do with parents’ vulnerabilities, than those of the child.’

Barriers to engagement

So what are some of the barriers you will need to overcome to effectively engage with families about burns and scalds?

  • Not understanding what the biggest risks are
  • Not realising how quickly serious accidents can happen
  • Being taken by surprise by breakthroughs in their child’s development
  • Thinking that it will take time that they just don’t have

What can you do to ensure that your work in raising awareness of burns and scalds is addresses these barriers and reaches the people who need it most?

Breaking burns and scalds barriers

First-hand stories like Lizzie’s can be very effective in inspiring empathy, which in turn can be powerful in motivating people to change their behaviour. Indeed research with groups of parents consistently shows that case studies and real-life stories really help bring the subject alive, address some of the thinking that can so often be a barrier to engagement and stimulate active learning and engagement.

Using case studies, like Lizzie’s story and scenarios from CAPT’s Too hot to handle DVD, which uses three real-life stories on a hot drink scald, a bath water scald and a burn from a hob, parents can see for themselves how burns accidents can happen and how quickly serious situations can arise.

Follow-up discussions can encourage parents to share experience and discuss simple steps they can fit into their everyday routine to reduce the risk of burns and scalds at home.

Simple burns and scalds reminders

Consider the language and tone you use – is it accessible? Pitching communications as reminders or presenting messages as part of a wider campaign (like CAPT's burns and scalds campaign) rather than targeting parents are less likely to alienate parents.

Giving simple messages and practical steps parents can take to make a big difference to the risk of serious burns and scalds to their child helps to address perceptions that taking action will take time they don’t have.

CAPT’s four burns and scalds flyers offer easily digestible reminders for group discussions around the Too hot to handle DVD or can be used alone to prompt discussion and as a reference when parents get home.


Engaging parents in decisions can also be very effective in getting messages across. Karen McFarlane from Children in Wales told delegates how one approach – a parent’s pledge to ban hot drinks in one centre (Caia Park), PDF 55KB – has  been so successful that it has now been rolled out in centres across the county of Wrexham.

Staff who worked with young families were trained to run short sessions for parents, which included illustrating how much of a child’s body would be covered in an accident by spilling a cup of blue dye over a baby-sized doll – a technique which shocks most parents.

The facilitator then encourages parents to think about creating a policy to tackle the issue which typically results in the parents creating a safe area for hot drinks away from the children.

The strength of the approach is that the Pledge is created, ‘owned’ and policed by the parents themselves, rather than being imposed by staff.

As Karen explained, ‘The ownership of the parents is what makes it work. The effect is astonishing.’

Burns and scalds are easily preventable

One of the strongest messages from the Burns and Scalds conference was that many burns and scald accidents are easily preventable, once parents know the risks and are empowered to avoid them.


Order your resources now and get your campaign underway:

DVD packs




Next steps