Burns Awareness Month: Bonfire burns patient’s warning

Recovering from painful burns to her face and arms, Lahari Goparaju is urging others take the risk of burns seriously.

The 22-year-old was at a bonfire for a friend’s birthday on a cold June night when she poured petrol onto a dying flame and her hair and clothes caught alight.

“The flames went so high…my friends initially didn’t realised it was me on fire,” Lahari said.

Friends rushed to extinguish the flames, then cooled the burns and took her to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where she was treated in the world-renowned Burns Unit.

June is National Burns Awareness Month and Lahari wants to use her experience to highlight the dangers of using flammable liquids to start bonfires and encourage others to learn correct first aid treatment.

Flame burns from campfire and bonfires are the most common burn injuries to young adults aged 15-35 in Australia, and occur more during winter. But they can happen to anyone.

Advanced Nurse Unit Manager for the RAH’s Adult Burns Centre, Natalia Adanichkin, says a serious burn is an injury for life and all burns should be taken seriously.

“The correct first aid, even for a minor burn can have a huge impact on the severity of the injury,” she said.

“During winter there is an increased risk of burns from bonfires, heaters, warm drinks and hot water bottles as we try to stay warm.”

If someone is burnt, you should:

1. Cool the burn with cool running water for at least 20 minutes.

2. Remove clothing and jewellery.

3. Wrap affected area in the clean cloth and elevate.

4. Seek medical advice.

“Cooling is critical immediate after a burn injury,” Ms Adanichkin said.

“By applying cool running water to the burn for 20 minutes, within three hours of the injury occurring, you reduce the burn size and depth.

“The next steps should be to remove clothing and jewellery, wrap the affected area in clean cloth and elevate, and seek medical advice.”

Lahari says if her friends hadn’t reacted quickly, she could have suffered serious damage to her sight or internal organs.

“It was such a horrible experience, you really have to be careful,” she said. “Coming from a tropical climate, I had no experience or knowledge of fires.”

“If you have a fire, you need basic things with you; an immediate bucket of water and a fire blanket.”

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