Arrowtown mum’s burnt baby shock

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A distraught Arrowtown mum is sounding a warning after sun-baked outdoor tiles hospitalised her toddler with severe burns. 

Angela McRae’s 13-month-old daughter Olivia may need skin grafting to heal sores on her feet after she stood on sun-heated patio tiles. 

The common basalt stone tiles were a scorching 69 degrees Celsius – and caused little Olivia’s feet to almost double in size with balloon-like blisters. 

“It was pretty horrific,” McRae recalls. 

“All the doctors have said it’s a bizarre injury to get from tiles so I want to make sure people are aware of the dangers.” 

McRae was in her ensuite bathroom while three-year-old son Jacob and Olivia were in her bedroom, two weeks ago when it happened. Because it was a hot day, McRae had left the sliding door from the bedroom to the patio open.

Next thing, she heard muffled crying from outside. 

“My three-year-old had closed the sliding door. 

“Olivia would have been out there for maybe 30 seconds, definitely no more than a minute,” McRae says. 

“I just thought because the door was closed that’s why she was upset. But then I saw her feet – it looked like the bottom of her feet had all this extra skin on them.” 

McRae ran to the sink and put Olivia’s feet under cold water for 15 minutes before heading to the medical centre.
McRae was told to go straight to Lakes District Hospital, where it was decided Olivia would be rushed by ambulance to Southland Hospital in Invercargill. 

Doctors put Olivia on morphine for pain and a drip to keep her hydrated over two nights, while they popped her blisters and removed the skin. 

Her feet are still bandaged and she’s been referred to a plastic surgeon in Dunedin to see if she needs skin grafting. 

“Olivia’s doing fine now. The biggest challenge is keeping her off her feet,” McRae says. 

The day after the accident her husband Andy measured the temperature of the tiles – the couple was blown away with the 69degC reading. 

“Never in a million years would I have thought that would be possible from our tiles. If I had known, she wouldn’t have been put near them. We’ve got carpet covering them up now. 

“People need to be aware if the sun’s out it will be on the tiles, making them hotter. Go and measure the temperature to make sure it’s not going to happen.” 

The McRaes bought their tiles from local firm Designa Tiles five years ago but Angela stresses she’s not blaming anyone. 

Designa owner Tom Butters says it’s the first time in 28 years in the industry he’s ever heard of such an injury. 

“That’s really terrible, I hope she’s going to be ok,” he says. 

Natural dark-coloured stones like basalt store heat and get very hot in direct sunlight and people do need to be aware, he says. 

“I’ve got tiles myself on an outside balcony in direct sunlight and sure, I’ve walked out there a couple of times in the summer and it has been ‘ouch, I better put some jandals on’ but you manage to walk back without getting any blisters or burns on your feet.” 

It’s possible that the glass balustrade surrounding the McRaes’ patio and glass sliding doors caused the heat to radiate on to the tiles, resulting in a “glasshouse” effect, Butters says.