Welsh Government
Research drives campaign to reduce hot drink injuries to babies and toddlers

Research drives campaign to reduce hot drink injuries to babies and toddlers

30 October 2019

The Scar Free Foundation and Health and Care Research Wales are supporting a national campaign aimed at reducing the number and severity of injuries caused to babies and toddlers by hot drinks.

The SafeTea campaign, launched on National Burns Awareness Day, uses research findings to help parents reduce the risks of such injuries and give the correct first aid in the event of a scald.

The Foundation and Health and Care Research Wales co-funded research by universities in Bristol and Cardiff into the causes of burns and scalds to children. The research revealed that over 30 babies and young children per day attend hospital with scalds caused by hot drinks – more than 70% of all burns involving children. Many of these scalds result in painful injuries, sometimes resulting in life-changing scars. 

These findings prompted Professor Alison Kemp of Cardiff University and Professor Alan Emond of the University of Bristol to develop the Safe Tea Campaign, a multimedia intervention aimed at parents and carers of children aged 1-5.

Researchers ran successful trials of the campaign at Flying Start centres in the Cardiff area, with face-to-face, interactive sessions for parents and carers of young children to test the campaign messages.

SafeTea awareness packs are being distributed to schools, nurseries and parent groups, while powerful videos featuring victims of scald injuries and simple first aid advice have been posted on social media.

SafeTea campaign key messages:


  • Keep hot drinks out of reach of young children
  • Do not pass hot drinks over children
  • Never hold a baby and a hot drink at the same time
  • Create a SafeTea area at home where hot drinks are made and drunk away from children
  • Follow the COOL, CALL, COVER principle if a burn occurs
  • COOL the area under running water for 20 minutes; CALL NHS Direct or 999; COVER the area with clingfilm

Professor Alison Kemp who leads the University of Cardiff research team said:

“When parents or grandparents are shown how long a cup of tea can stay dangerously hot, how fragile a baby’s skin can be or how high a toddler can reach, they become far more vigilant.  Separating hot drinks from where babies and young children are is crucial in reducing these horrible injuries.”

Brendan Eley, Chief Executive of The Scar Free Foundation said:

“The research which the Foundation has co-funded is informing the SafeTea campaign. We now know that of children seen in hospital with burn injuries, the great majority are between 8 and 18 months old and have been scalded by hot drinks.  The horror is that the vast majority of these scald injuries are completely avoidable. The SafeTea campaign will make a difference in reducing these injuries, while further research supported by The Scar Free Foundation will inform the work of clinicians in alleviating scarring.”

Michael Bowdery, Head of Programmes at Health and Care Research Wales said:

“This campaign is a demonstration of how insights from research can have practical benefits and inform good practice. The SafeTea campaign has been tested and refined in Wales: it engages parents in protecting their children. With the right understanding, there are simple steps which can be taken both to avoid serious scalds and to provide immediate, effective first aid when accidents do happen. We are delighted to have co-funded the research and to support roll out and evaluation of the campaign.”