Dad's terrifying warning about burn injuries at home: 'I'll never forget her scream'

Photo: Milla Radcliffe, 8, suffered severe burns after spilling a bowl of noodles on her lap at home. Supplied
Photo: Milla Radcliffe, 8, suffered severe burns after spilling a bowl of noodles on her lap at home. Supplied 

In June last year, Milla Radcliffe returned home from a party feeling hungry.

The eight-year-old went to the kitchen to prepare one of her favourite snacks, instant noodles, just as she had done many times before.

On this occasion however, she decided to sit down on the couch to eat with the bowl of hot noodles resting in her lap, rather than the table. 

"It all happened so fast," recalls her father Mat. "Milla was sitting eating when I heard her scream. I won't ever forget it."

Some of the hot water from the bowl had spilt onto Milla's lap, causing her to jump and the entire scolding hot contents of the bowl tipped onto her legs.

In an instant, Milla sustained severe burns to the inside of her thighs and groin area.

"I was so scared," Milla recalls. "The pain was horrible – on a scale from 1 to 10 it was definitely a 10!"

While Mat was shocked, fortunately he knew the correct first aid treatment for burns and immediately leapt into action.

"I thought for a moment that the noodles had stuck to her, but it was actually her skin bubbling and peeling," Mat explains. "I felt sick, but knew I had to get water on her and the ambulance called."

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"Within seconds I had her pants off and running her legs and groin under cool water. She was sobbing and in shock."

Mat's swift actions, along with a quick trip to the hospital, played a significant role in her recovery. Remarkably, she was home in just 24 hours, very sore and with an ongoing routine to manage her pain and injuries.

One year on, Milla is still impacted by the terrifying incident. She has permanent scarring, requires dressings, frequent moisturiser and will likely need operations down the track.

Thankfully, she can still do cartwheels, which was one of her main concerns.

Her message to other kids is very simple: "Always sit down with your food and don't put it on your lap."

Phot: Milla can still do cartwheels after her burn injury. Supplied

Photo: Milla can still do cartwheels after her burn injury. Supplied

As winter hits, Kidsafe Australia is urging parents to take extra care at home to prevent burns - and to ensure they know the correct first aid steps if a burn does occur. 

According to KidSafe spokersperson Scott Phillips, the home is the most common location for childhood burn injuries, with the majority taking place in the kitchen.

Scalds from hot drinks, water from a saucepan, kettle, jug or urn and hot food were the most common cause of burn injuries (56 per cent).

"It's important as parents and carers that we remain vigilant and take action to help reduce the risk of burns to children in the home. Along with active adult supervision, important prevention steps include keeping children out of the kitchen when meals are being prepared, placing hot food and drinks out of reach, and ensuring older children eat whilst sitting at a table to help prevent spills," Mr Phillips said. 

"Particularly during winter, hot water bottles, heat bags, and heaters are also potential burn hazards for children. Restricting children's access to these items, in addition to treadmills - which can cause friction burns - is also recommended." 

Statistics from the Burns Registry of Australia and New Zealand (BRANZ) also show that in 2018/19, 906 children aged under 15 were admitted to burns units across Australia and New Zealand.

If a burn or scald does occur, it's important to know what to do. Taking the correct first aid steps quickly can make a huge difference in the long-term outcome of a burn injury.

When treating a burn injury, remember to Remove, Cool, Cover and Seek.

Remove – remove yourself from danger. Remove any clothing and jewellery from the burn area unless well stuck to the skin.
Cool – place the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes. Never use items like ice, oil or butter on a burn as these can make it worse.
Cover the burn with a clean dressing.
Seek medical attention if the burn or scald is on the face, hands, feet, genitals or buttocks, is larger than a 20-cent coin or blistered.

June is National Burns Awareness Month. Find out more at kidsafe.com.au/national-burns-awareness-month