A PLASTIC surgeon has said she has treated toddlers left with horrific injuries after being handed sparklers by adults at Halloween parties.
Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Bon Secours Hospital Cork, Ann McKenna revealed that many of these children are continuing to receive treatment years after the life-altering event.
She fears that the emphasis on outdoor celebrations during the pandemic will result in further sparkler-related injuries on Halloween night.
Speaking about the extent of the problem she said: "We have had children who have had to have amputations. Others are lucky that they are just at the skin graft stage. The reason for partial or full amputations is the depth of the burn. Sometimes sparklers can explode in your hand.
"Because there isn't a lot of flesh over the bones, if you have that degree of a burn that's not salvageable or reconstructable children tend to do better with an amputation."
She described her experiences with sparkler-related burns.
"We have more sparkler-related injuries than fireworks, she said.
"When a young child is holding a sparkler they don't see how low the heat is travelling and they don't put it down. An older child on the other hand will see it coming."
She said that parents are sometimes unaware their child has been put in danger "Before I became a parent I thought differently. Now I realise that it's not always the parent who is giving the child sparklers. They may even have turned their back for a moment to supervise an older child only to find that someone else has passed their child a sparkler just to be nice."
Ms McKenna described how injuries like this can tear families apart.
"Sometimes they are given it by their parents while around a bonfire," she said of sparklers.
"It's meant to be a treat and these parents are well-meaning.
"Sharing something that's supposed to be a simple joyous moment can turn out to be a devastating event for many families. I've dealt with families where the child's injuries were so difficult to deal with the parents have divorced.
"When a child suffers in this way one parent can end up blaming the other. Sometimes this is something they just can't get over. I've had a couple of families where parents have divorced as a result."
Anger is a familiar emotion for many parents dealing with their child's severe injuries.
"At the beginning, it's very emotional and sometimes that emotion can be misplaced. When it's settled they will usually apologise.
"The anger is only there because they are so overwhelmed and that's something we are used to. This is a very emotional time for parents."
Burns can also result in long hospital stays for many young children.
"Because we want the child's hand to heal without a skin graft if possible, we'll often observe a burn wound to see if it will heal itself or not. Sometimes they can heal but that process of observation can take up to two or three weeks. Parents are often shocked at how long their children are in hospital for.
"A child could be in for up to six weeks so that's a lot of time. Usually, the parent will take time off work to be with their child as much as they can. It's very painful for the child and they need a lot of supervision.
"Dressings have to be changed and that's painful. Often the child needs medication with oral morphine and that's not something that can be done in a dressing clinic. Whatever about the effects of the burn on the cosmetic appearance and the function of the child's hand, it also affects the larger family, both in terms of work lost and the emotional impact."
She advised parents to take the necessary steps before bringing a child to the emergency department.
"Often, Irish people will have a tendency to wrap up the wound as much as they can before bringing the child to the emergency department. However, this is the worst thing you could do as you are only making it hotter. The best thing you can do is cool the burn under lukewarm water for 20 minutes.
"When you come to the hospital all you'll be treated for is burnt dead skin but if you do immediate cooling you might prevent the skin from receiving so much heat that it dies. It's also important to leave the skin clear. If cream is put on the burn then it will only have to be scraped off in the emergency department which only results in even more pain for the child."
The consultant plastic surgeon is pleading with families to avoid bonfires, sparklers and DIY fireworks this Halloween night.
"People tend to be less cautious about a sparkler or bonfire than they would be around fireworks. There have been bonfires with people around them where children have tripped and fallen with outstretched arms into the fire. It's really the younger toddlers and wobblers who tend to come off the most badly."