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Cool Runnings – an app that can reduce childhood scalding

Posted July 21, 2016

These days it seems as if there is a smartphone app for everything. Our finances are there, our hobbies, friends, work and so much more. However, have you ever thought that there will be apps specifically designed to protect those who cannot even use a phone? The University of Queensland and digital health company iPug have recently presented a new smartphone app, which is aiming to prevent scalds in children.

Parents may not be aware how quickly their children reach the age when they can easily spill hot beverages on themselves. Image credit: Suzette - via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

Parents may not be aware how quickly their children reach the age when they can easily spill hot beverages on themselves. Image credit: Suzette – via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

Scalds are actually the most frequent childhood burns in the world. Small children get hurt by spilling hot beverages or liquid food on themselves and adults have to find ways to prevent that from happening. Now there is a 21st century solution – a simple app. Obviously, an app cannot suddenly deploy a shield to shelter an infant from falling coffee. Instead, Cool Runnings has a game-like design, which is seeking to educate parents about potential dangers. This is not a bad strategy, because usually it is adults who are nearby at the time of the accident. In fact, in many cases it is their hot beverage that hurts their children.

Jacquii Burgess is researching burns and has some interesting insights to share. Not only he said that about hot drinks are the cause of about 20% of all burns in children, but he also mentioned that infants younger than 2 years old are at the highest risk in this regard. He said: “Babies and toddlers grow and develop so rapidly that it’s sometimes hard to recognise they can now reach that coffee mug on a benchtop. Our research has found that burns treatment has improved significantly over the past 20 years or so, but there has been no decrease in the number of children presenting with hot beverage scalds”.

How does it work? Well, Cool Runnings works like a game. Although it is presenting an important message to the parents of the children, it does so without an obvious educational method. Playing a game is rewarding and thus adults are rewarded for receiving the necessary message and at the end of the line children can be protected from scalding.

It is a nice example of scientists and business cooperation. Cool Runnings may not teach children not to grab potentially harmful objects, but it may inform parents about how to keep such objects away from the children in the first place. Scientists are saying that if proven successful, this technique can be applied in efforts to prevent other injuries as well.


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