Gretchen Waddell Brings Awareness For National Burns Awareness Month

Updated: Jun 20


Kidsafe, in partnership with the Australian & New Zealand Burn Association (ANZBA), is urging parents and carers to be extra vigilant this winter to prevent burns, and ensure they are aware of the correct first aid steps for burns. Today I speak to Gretchen Waddell, Program Manager who joined the Kidsafe Victoria team following a move from Perth, bringing child injury prevention experience from her previous position with Kidsafe WA. Gretchen has completed undergraduate and postgraduate studies in population health and health promotion at the University of Western Australia and Curtin University, which fostered her interest in health, wellbeing, and prevention. When she’s not working Gretchen can usually be found at the beach, travelling and spending time with friends and family.


Gretchen, highlighted that the home is the most common location for childhood burn injuries (76%), with statistics showing that the majority occur in the kitchen (44%).

The call comes during National Burns Awareness Month, an Australia-wide campaign run by Kidsafe focused on raising awareness of prevention and correct first aid treatment for burns and scalds across all age groups. Data from the Burns Registry of Australia and New Zealand (BRANZ) shows that in 2020/2021, 1,009 children aged under 15 were admitted to burns units across Australia and New Zealand – over 19 per week.

The primary cause of injury in paediatric patients was scalds (49%), in particular scalds from hot drinks such as tea and coffee.


“It’s important as parents and carers that we remain vigilant and take action to help reduce the risk of burns to children in the home. Along with active adult supervision, important prevention steps include keeping children out of the kitchen when meals are being prepared, placing hot food and drinks out of reach, and ensuring older children eat whilst sitting at a table to help prevent spills.” “Particularly during winter, hot water bottles, heat bags, and heaters are also potential burn hazards for children. Restricting children’s access to these items is also recommended,” said Ms Waddell.

The statistics also reveal that 26% of children and 40% of adults (≥16 years) did not receive the recommended ‘gold standard’ initial first aid treatment for their burn injury, underlining the importance of continued education on burns first aid.

“If a burn happens, it's critical that cool running water is applied to the burn area for 20 minutes. Many people still do not realise that using ice, creams, ointments, or butter on a burn can make the injury worse,” said Ms Waddell. “Taking the correct first aid steps can make a significant difference in the rehabilitation and long-term outcome of the burn injury”.

Milla was eight years old when she suffered severe burns to the inside of her thighs and groin area when a bowl of hot instant noodles accidentally tipped into her lap. “Milla was sitting eating when I heard her scream. I won’t ever forget it,” said her father Mat Radcliffe. “I thought for a moment that the noodles had stuck to her but it was actually her skin bubbling and peeling.”


Two years on, Milla is still impacted by this tragic and painful incident that has left her with permanent scarring. While she has come a long way in the last 12 months, she still requires frequent moisturizer, appointments with a Burns Physiotherapist and is understandably hesitant when eating hot foods or liquids.

Milla expressed that other kids should be very careful with hot food to reduce the risk of burns. “Always sit down with your food and don’t put it on your lap,” said Milla. During National Burns Awareness Month, Kidsafe is encouraging parents and carers to download and use their Burns Safety Checklist to prevent burns around the home, and to ensure they are aware of the correct first aid steps to take in the event that someone sustains a burn: First aid treatment of burns and scalds

● Remove – remove yourself from danger. Remove any clothing and jewellery from the burn area unless stuck to the skin ● Cool – Place the burn under cool running water for twenty minutes. Items like ice, oil or butter should never be placed on a burn as they can make it worse. ● Cover the burn with a clean dressing ● Seek medical attention if the burn or scald is on the face, hands, feet, genitals, or buttocks, is larger than a 20-cent coin or blistered. For more information about National Burns Awareness Month and burns prevention and first aid resources, please visit Kidsafe Victoria’s website.