Mum's warning after seeing daughter's skin melt off: 'Sheer horror'

A teenager's painful accident with a household item will leave permanent scars.

·4-min read

Warning: Graphic content

A mum has shared details of the horrifying moment a hot water bottle leaked and burned her teenage daughter's skin, causing it to "melt" off.

When Michelle Wescott heard a "blood-curdling" scream coming from the kitchen, she didn't expect to find her teenage daughter in pain, with her skin "bubbling" away.

Sydney, aged 15, decided to make herself a hot water bottle in a bid to find comfort for her period pains. But, as she settled down to eat dinner, scalding water covered her thighs and stomach.

Hot water bottle injury; Sydney Westcott in hospital bed
Sydney Westcott's leg was badly burned when her hot water bottle burst. Source: Jam Press

Now, with over 10 per cent of Sydney's skin left with hyperpigmentation as a result, Michelle is hoping to raise awareness of the dangers of using hot water bottles straight from the kettle.

"My little girl's skin bubbled before my eyes and my mind went numb from the sheer horror," Michelle, a secondary school attendance manager from Bristol, England, told Need To Know.

"I initially blamed myself, as I thought the lid wasn't screwed on properly and I wondered how I could've let something like this slip at the expense of my daughter."

Against the clock

"I went into survival mode, as did my daughter, Paige, and my husband, Richard, as we all rallied together to make sure she was OK as I know that timing is everything when it comes to burns. Whatever I did then and there would determine the outcome.

"But as my husband doused her skin in cool water continuously, I couldn't help but feel terrified as her skin continued to bubble and melt off."

Michelle phoned for emergency help and 20 minutes later an ambulance arrived. The teen was given pain relief and her burns were wrapped in cling film, before she was taken to the hospital in November 2022.

While there, Sydney was given more pain medication, before doctors peeled the cling film back to examine the damage. The burns team performed emergency debridement surgery, where the top layer of the damaged skin is scraped off.

Burns from burst hot water bottle on leg and hand
Sydney will have permanent scars from her burns. Source: Jam Press

Over the next three weeks, the family worked together to ensure a speedy recovery, using yoga blocks to prop up the leg so Sydney could sit, and regular visits to the hospital to have the dressings changed.

Michelle, who tried to stay strong, found the whole ordeal "heartbreaking" and recalls feeling "horrified" at the condition of her daughter's leg.

Sydney's skin pushed to the limit

"As her skin wasn't able to scab due to no air getting to the wound, her thigh turned deep purple and the tissue was so thin that I could see her blood vessels. Over the past few months, it's changed through all different colours, from red, to blue to pink," Michelle said.

"Since then, she's been told to be very careful with the wound, but there's been a couple of times where she's ripped the skin with a nail while exercising and getting her muscle strength back, which isn't pretty."

Michelle claims that a slit in the water bottle had caused boiling water to flood out and all the protective coating had worn off.

Important guidelines ignored

Michelle says she purchased the product from UK brand Primark a year ago and that the item has a warning label that says it must be replaced every two years due to deterioration from the inside.

In a statement to Jam Press, Primark stated that the label also includes a notice not to use boiling water, and confirmed that all of their hot water bottles have been tested to and passed standards for safety, quality and labelling.

Hot water bottle guidelines; Ripped hot water bottle
Sydney's hot water bottle ripped open because important guidelines weren't followed. Source: Jam Press

"All our hot water bottles come with user instructions on both the product label and the hot water bottle itself, which includes a warning not to use boiling water," the statement reads.

The family has reportedly received 250 ($475) as a goodwill gesture from the company and they now hope to raise awareness to stop this from happening to someone else.

The mum-of-two added: "I'm so shocked, as I've always filled up hot water bottles straight from the kettle. Now, we're using microwavable wheat bags or TENS machines to help with period pains instead. If you do use a hot water bottle, please don't use boiling water – it's not worth the risk."

- Jam Press/Australscope

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