Load shedding, winter expected to fuel burn injuries

Load shedding, winter expected to fuel burn injuries(File photo)

A new, viral social media campaign is encouraging South Africans to “burn for burns” as doctors warn that cold weather and load shedding are likely to prompt a spike in burn injuries this winter.

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Thousands of South Africans will suffer burns each year, according to the South African Burn Society (File photo)

Nikki Allorto braces herself before she takes a big bite of a tiny red pepper. As her eyes widen, she gulps the potent chilli down and passes the torch.

Allorto works with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health and founded the Burn Care Trust. She is one of several health workers who recently posted videos of themselves ingesting spicy food like chillies and Tabasco sauce.

As their mouths burn, they hope to raise awareness about burn injuries in South Africa. Dubbed “Burn4Burns,” the campaign borrows from the 2014 viral Ice Bucket Challenge, which aimed to increase awareness about the debilitating neurological condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. As part of the challenge, people dumped buckets of ice water on their heads and nominated others to do the same.

Burn injuries affect thousands of people every year and can have a lasting impact on survivor’s mental and physical health, according to specialist plastic surgeon and Secretary of the South African Burn Society Dr Maria Giaquinto-Cilliers.

[quote float= right]Many burn injuries are a result of accidents which occurred during load shedding”

Giaquinto-Cilliers added that poverty play a major role in burn deaths as many continue to live in high-density informal housing and rely on poorly secured paraffin stoves. She adds that load shedding may also be playing a role.

“Candles are used for a light source and open fires for warmth,” she told OurHealth. “This is perpetuated by load shedding, which forces people to improvise for sources of heat and light.”

“Many burn injuries are a result of accidents which occurred during load shedding,” said Giaquinto-Cilliers. As head of Kimberly Hospital’s plastic, reconstructive and burn surgery unit, said Giaquinto-Cilliers added that many burn survivors have also been purposely attacked with boiling water.

If nominees can’t take the heat, Giaquinto-Cilliers said they are welcomed to donate time or money to a burn charity instead of eating something hot.

The campaign comes as fire warnings were recently issued in Limpopo, which has seen a high number of house fires in the rural Mutale area, according to Nditsheni Magidi from the Disaster Management Department in Limpopo’s Vhembe District.

Divhani Masutha from the local fire department cautioned people to avoid fires by safely disposing of cigarette butts, keeping children away from matches and refraining from using paraffin or petrol to start cooking fires. He added that cooking oil fires should not be doused with water. Instead, oil fires should be smothered using a blanket.

Recently, the South African Burn Society has also started the Recycle Me campaign that allows people to donate thin layers of skin to help burn victims heal.