Many people think that accidents only happen to other people. But it can take just a second for something disastrous to happen. You can use this case study in your work with parents when discussing scalds, and teaching parents how to deal with scalds in an emergency.

Lily's story

When Jane Percival’s three-year-old daughter Lily sat on the sofa waiting to go to bed it was no different to any other night. She was sitting with Jane’s husband, Darren, who was holding a hot water bottle ready for bed. Suddenly, the neck of the hot water bottle blew off, covering Lily in scalding water.

Darren immediately picked up Lily and pulled off her pyjamas while Jane rang 999. He wrapped clingfilm around the burns and the couple put cold damp towels around the area.

Lily was taken to hospital and later treated in a specialist burns unit. She spent two weeks in hospital, and the family was devastated. Lily spent months in bandages and will have some of her scars forever.

After the incident, Lily couldn’t walk for a month and had to see a physiotherapist to learn how to walk again. She also suffered from nightmares and had to see a psychiatrist.

Lily’s mum Jane said “Lily’s burns were horrific from water that wasn’t even boiling, as we had let it cool before filling up the bottle. It was a faulty bottle and the shop we got it from recalled every one after the incident.”

Lily had ten per cent burns and will have the scars for the rest of her life. The Percivals were later told by doctors that if it hadn’t been for Darren’s swift action to pull off her wet clothes, that percentage would have been higher.

How could the accident have been prevented?

Some accidents, like this one, are the result of poor product design. By telling her story, Jane managed to get the hot water bottles recalled so that children aren’t put in danger.

To help parents, we disseminate information and advice on particular dangers for children. Hot water is particularly dangerous because babies’ skin is 15 times thinner than an adult’s, so hot water can still scald them 15 minutes after it has boiled.

For more advice, visit our tips on burns and scalds, which includes advice on what to do in an emergency. If you are a practitioner working with parents, you can use our engaging resources to teach parents how to keep their children safe around hot water.

Darren’s prompt actions saved Lily from suffering even more severe injuries. Your local Children’s Centre may be able to give you advice and information on first aid for babies and children.