Many people think that accidents only happen to other people. But with inquisitive children, it can take just a second for their whole life to be turned upside-down. You can use this case study in your work with parents to show how important it is to follow safety advice around hot drinks.

Gabriel's story

Valerie Jackson’s life was turned upside-down when her 10-month old son, Gabriel, spilled a cup of hot tea on himself.

Early one Sunday morning, Gabriel Jackson was crawling around, happily exploring the living room. In his excitement, he grabbed a cup of hot tea and tipped it over himself.

Peter, Valerie’s husband, reacted quickly and took Gabriel to the bathroom to rinse him in cold water. His skin was peeling away where the hot liquid had touched him, so Gabriel’s parents rushed him to hospital.

Gabriel spent a long time going back and forth to the hospital. He was given morphine initially and his wounds were cleaned. He was in a lot of pain, and doctors realised that the burns covered 10% of his body. He was transferred to a specialist burns unit.

“Everyone in the burns unit was there because of an accident. None of them were born that way and they hadn’t developed a disease to make them disfigured. In a split second their whole life changed,” said Valerie.

Gabriel spent two days in the hospital and a long time after in bandages. Valerie, Gabriel’s Mum, was delighted at how quickly he recovered – he was a very healthy baby boy!

Three years later, Valerie explains that Gabriel was lucky to have escaped even more serious injury. His face, the most vulnerable area, was spared from the burns. His back and chest have discolouration, and he has thick scarring under his arm. Some of these scars will be with him permanently but Valerie says that he was extremely fortunate.

“He has no recollection of what happened to him and it is still too painful to acknowledge the reality. In the grand scheme of things, it has hardly affected his life. It could have been so much worse.”

How could the accident have been prevented?

Hot drinks are the number one cause of scalds among under fives. Babies and toddlers have very delicate skin, and a hot drink can still scald 15 minutes after it has been made.

That’s why we develop resources to alert parents, carers and childcare practitioners to the dangers of hot drink scalds. We produce advice for parents, support for practitioners and safety resources to make sure that children stay safe.