The hidden dangers in winter: how to stay warm and stay safe

It's winter here in Australia, and we're all dragging out those dusty gas and oil heaters, clearing out the fireplace from last year, and plugging in our electric blankets to keep us toasty and warm. However with the comfort of warmth comes the risk of a variety of first aid emergencies. It's important to know the risks, how best to prevent them, and if the unfortunate should happen, then how to be a first aid super star and treat them. 

The hidden dangers of heaters, fireplaces and warming devices

Heaters, whether electric, gas, or wood-fired, and warming devices are essential for comfort during winter. However, they can pose several risks if not used properly:

  1. Fire hazards: Heaters and warming devices can ignite nearby flammable materials such as curtains, furniture, or clothing.
  2. Carbon monoxide poisoning: Gas heaters, if not properly ventilated, can produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal.
  3. Electrical issues: Faulty or overloaded electric heaters can cause electrical fires. Too many of these devices can also place strain on old or overcrowded power boards which can lead to malfunction. 

Tips for heater, fireplace and warming device safety

  1. Keep a safe distance: Ensure that heaters and fireplaces are placed at least one meter away from any flammable materials.
  2. Regular maintenance:
    - Have gas heaters serviced regularly by a qualified technician to ensure they are working efficiently and safely.
    - Ensure fireplaces are regularly maintained by cleaning the flue, clean air tubes etc
  3. Use appropriate heaters: Only use outdoor heaters in outdoor spaces. For indoor use, opt for heaters with automatic shut-off features.
  4. Avoid overloading: Do not overload power boards or power points with multiple heaters.
  5. Supervision: Always supervise heaters and turn them off when leaving the room or going to bed.

First aid for burns

Despite precautions, accidents and first aid emergencies can happen. Knowing basic first aid for burns can help minimise injury and prevent complications.

Types of burns

  1. First-degree burns: Affect only the outer layer of the skin, causing redness and pain.
  2. Second-degree burns: Affect both the outer and underlying layer of the skin, causing swelling, redness, and blisters.
  3. Third-degree burns: Extend through all layers of the skin, potentially affecting underlying tissues.

Steps for treating burns

  1. Avoid home remedies: Do not apply ice, butter, or ointments to burns, as these can cause further damage.
  2. Cool the burn: Immediately run cool (not cold) water over the burn for at least 10-20 minutes. This helps reduce swelling and eases the pain.
  3. Cover the burn: Use a clean, non-adherent dressing to cover the burn. Avoid using fluffy or adhesive materials that can stick to the burn.
  4. Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relief, like ibuprofen or paracetamol, can help manage pain.
  5. Seek medical attention: For second-degree burns larger than 8cm, any third-degree burns, or if the burn is on the face, hands, feet, or genitals, seek professional medical help immediately.

Preventing fire-related burns

In addition to heater safety, it's crucial to have a fire safety plan in place:

  1. Install smoke alarms: Ensure smoke alarms are installed in every bedroom and living area. Test them monthly and replace batteries annually.
  2. Fire extinguishers: Keep a fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location, particularly in the kitchen and near fireplaces or heaters.
  3. Escape plan: Have an escape plan and practice it with your family. Ensure everyone knows how to quickly and safely exit the house in case of a fire.

Keep a first aid kit on hand

Having a well-stocked first aid kit readily available is crucial for dealing with minor injuries and emergencies, especially during winter when the risk of burns and other accidents increases. FastAid stock a range of personal and home use first aid kits, just ensure that they are placed in easy to access areas incase of an emergency.

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