A mother is raising awareness about toxic shock after a wrong diagnosis led doctors to needlessly amputate her son’s legs. When I saw this on Sky News shivers went down my back as I selfishly realised that this could have been my son.
Last week my 25 year old son who works as a chef in a London restaurant called to say he would not be visiting on his day off as he was not well in the night and was going to rest up. Call it a second sense but something didn’t feel quite right and I decided to down tools and drive across London to bring him some motherly care and paracetamol.
On arrival he showed me a burn on his finger from 2 days ago – it was clearly very inflamed and badly infected. He had red marks going up his arm, severe pain in the lymph nodes under the arm and a temperature. Needless to say we went straight to the walk in centre at Homerton Hospital who put him on intravenous anti biotics. Why am I telling you this story? not because of a misdiagnosis but because my son had been stupid enough not to deal correctly with the burn in the first place and then not connect the symptoms with what clearly could have developed into something very serious indeed.
We cover burns extensively on Safe and Sound First Aid Courses and I am continually surprised that in 2016 there are still a number of myths that surround the treatment of burns. (See below for correct burn procedure). Our trainers who are paramedics and who have worked extensively in accident and emergency tell us that fewer people would need skin grafts if burns were correctly treated when they happened.
You can see from the above two examples what can happen and how serious can be the outcome from a burn. I don’t know if my son would have developed Toxic Shock Syndrome or Cellulitis. But I do know that if bacteria infects a wound and starts pumping poisonous toxins around the body it can be a life threatening condition.
Paediatrician Dr Nelly Ninis said on Sky News “Toxic Shock Syndrome is very serious indeed because you are effectively racing against these toxins and it’s a race against time.”
Luckily for my son a diligent over-protective mother was on hand and Homerton Hospital were quick off the mark. Sadly this was not the case for little Reuben Harvey-Smith who had to have both his legs and seven of his fingers amputated after doctors failed to spot the warning signs of toxic shock syndrome after he accidently burnt himself at home last summer.
Treating Burns or scalds
Cool the burn under running water (if available) for 10 minutes or until the pain reduces.
If there is no running water immediately available use any cold ‘harmless liquid – e.g. milk then get quickly to some running water to continue cooling the burn.
Be mindful not too cool a large area of burn as it may induce hypothermia, especially in small children.
Remove any constricting items such as jewellery as the area might start to swell.
Remove carefully any loose clothing but leave anything that is stuck to the burn. (If it is a chemical burn be careful that you don’t contaminate yourself or other areas of the burn victim’s body.
Use a sterile dressing that won’t stick on the burn. Cling film is an excellent dressing for burns. Discard the first few rolls. Ensure you don’t put it on too tightly. Then secure it with a bandage.
If the burn seems severe or if the person has inhaled smoke or fumes call 999/112 for emergency help.
Burst a blister
Touch the burn – you may spread infection
Apply lotion, potion or fats (butter on burns if folklore as is toothpaste)
Apply adhesive tape or dressings
Remove any clothing that has stuck to the burn
SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE IF:
The burn is larger than 1-inch square
The casualty is a child or baby
The burn wraps around a limb
Any part of the burn appears to be full thickness
If the burn is on the hands feet, genitals or the face
If you are not sure.