Straighteners are a modern godsend for those of us with fiendish fringes, stubborn frizz or unruly cowlicks, but alarming figures released by researchers at the Archive of Diseases in Childhood reveals that they are also a growing cause of burns among children. According to data gathered by study author Professor Alison Mary Kemp and colleagues, the nation’s favourite hair appliance now accounts for almost one in ten of all scald injuries, with one-year-olds being at the greatest risk.
Researchers looked at admissions to three leading burns units in addition to five UK emergency departments, and while hot drinks, hobs, irons and hot baths were also common causes of burns, the incidence of straightener-related contact burns was significant. The authors observed that often hair straighteners were left on the floor, making young children particularly vulnerable to burns. Simply leaving them out on a dresser may not be a solution to avoiding scalds, however, as Professor Kemp highlighted that children can often still reach table tops and surfaces:
“The peak prevalence in infants started at nine months of age, when independent mobility begins, infants are exploring their environment without the awareness of dangers. Parents appear unready for this developmental stage in terms of preventative strategies. They may underestimate the potential reach height of their toddler.”
Given that hair straighteners can reach temperatures of around 220°C and can take up to forty minutes to cool down, playing it safe is vital, as Professor Kemp further emphasises
“Getting into habits early on, like always putting your hair straighteners on a high shelf or in a heatproof pouch to cool […] all helps to greatly reduce the risk of them suffering the pain of serious burns.”
Doing all you can to keep little ones out of harm’s way is crucial, but Kemp also suggests that “there is the potential to explore modification to product design to ensure toddler safety”. Given that many adults themselves have sustained straightener related burns (fried earlobes are familiar to many), a ghd guard seems like no bad thing. In the meantime, ensuring they’re switched off and stored in a heatproof pouch far away from the bambinos should reduce the risk of household scalds.