Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is offering advice on safe heating practices to help residents stay warm and safe, with temperatures across some areas of Qatar forecast to fall below 15C in the coming weeks.
“With the cold weather, some residents have begun using additional means to stay warmer at home and at bath time. Unfortunately, this may lead to a rise in the number of patients with injuries from their heating systems. These include scald injuries, electrical or contact burns from fire or gas heaters and even serious flame burns from house fires,” said Dr Rafael Consunji, director of the Hamad Injury Prevention Programme HIPP, the community outreach arm of the Hamad Trauma Center.
Dr Consunji explained that electrical burns and fires are more likely to happen with the incorrect use of electrical appliances for heating, while scald burns most often happen when bathing or cooking with hot liquids.
“Most victims of scald burns are very young or the elderly, because they are unable to physically remove themselves from the scalding liquid’s path, and because their skin is generally much thinner and more sensitive to high temperatures. They can sustain severe scald burns within a few seconds, and in recent weeks we have seen an increase in the number of infants seeking treatment for scald burns,” he said. 
The HIPP recommends precautions when using electrical or space heaters. They include purchasing an electrical or space heater from a reputable store and check it is ‘UL’ certified or equivalent to ensure it meets international standards for safety and keeping anything that can burn such as curtains, tablecloths, blankets, and bedding at least one metre away from heating equipment.
People are advised to plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater or portable radiator) into one electrical outlet at a time; electrical heaters are high-power devices that must be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Plugging them into an extension cord can cause the fuse to blow, or worse, overheat and melt devices or wiring, which can lead to a house fire.
There must also be a one-metre wide designated ‘kid-free zone’ around open fires and space heaters. If possible, position space heaters in an area that is inaccessible to young children and toddlers, under four years of age, and teach older children to avoid them. Keep heaters away from heavily trafficked zones or play areas.
Dr Consunji also said that parents and caregivers should avoid carrying a child and a hot beverage at the same time. “This is one of the most common causes of a child getting scald burns from hot liquids. Use a travel mug or cup with a lid to reduce the chance of spillage,” he added.