burns and toxic shock

A cup of tea turned our life upside down: toxic shock

child safety, burns


Happy (belated) New Year.

You’ll notice we’ve not been very chatty recently. As much as we love Cahootsy we found that our real babies needed us more at the beginning of this year. An innocent cup of tea really turned our lives upside down.

We’re now back at work and it’s business as usual but felt it was important to share our story with other parents, in the hope this will help avoid a similar situation happening to someone else. Editor note: This does have a happy ending.

Just before Christmas our little girl pulled a cup of hot tea* over herself. The cup was on the kitchen counter and she just pushed her foot stool up to it and grabbed it. It was terrifying. She got badly burnt all over her body and spent a few days in hospital. She seemed to be recovering well.

* if this ever happens to you make sure you rip or cut the clothes off (don’t pull them over the head), get your child under a running shower of cool not cold water for 20 minutes and then wrap the area in cling film to keep it clean. Always call an ambulance. For official treatment check the NHS site – NHS Burns Care 

treating burns, child with burns


We then returned to hospital on New Years Eve for a routine dressing change when she developed Toxic Shock. Most of us associate this with tampons but it can just as easily happen through infection in the tiniest open wound. Still, its pretty rare – only 40 people a year in the UK are affected.

She displayed what everyone thought was signs of a tummy bug – throwing up, high temperature, headache and disorientation followed by diarrhoea. The important signs were a temperature that wouldn’t drop with the usual pain relief, and liquid that just wasn’t getting absorbed by her system. As a parent, be confident in your own instincts and never be afraid to insist on help or second opinions if something looks amiss in your child.

Toxic shock can be managed with early detection – blood test, blood pressure check, putting a patient on a fluid drip and administering antibiotics. But with late diagnosis it can lead to organ failure or even fatality. Our baby became critical and her organs began shutting down, and, in the space of 24 hours – on New Years Day – ended up on life support with a 50% chance of survival.

toxic shock symptoms, child with toxic shock

She never gave up and neither did the incredible NHS paediatric intensive care unit we were in.

As you know your child is utterly amazing. Our daughter, even under sedation, managed to perform her inimitable foot stamp. An act that gave us such joyful hope and was heart breaking at the same time. After endless Frozen sing-alongs, story reading, praying and huge amounts of positive energy from everyone around her she pulled through. Miraculously.

Kids are incredibly resilient and she is now bouncing around like a relatively normal 3 year old. She’s doing remarkably well and, aside from scars that will fade over time and the relentless itching of healing skin, thankfully no lasting damage has been detected.

We have felt crushed, elated, angry, numb, dazed. Our wounds might take a little longer to heal but, as someone rightly told me, you heal once your child has healed. For anyone who’s watched their child suffer you’ll know what we’re talking about. For anyone who hasn’t we hope you never do.

If you have any questions feel free to email me personally at tarikam (at) cahootsy.com or add your comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Useful sites for further reading:

Toxic Shock Syndrome Information Service http://www.tssis.com/

NHS Burns and Scalds http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Burns-and-scalds/Pages/Introduction.aspx



Tarika Marshall – Co-founder

8 thoughts on “A cup of tea turned our life upside down: toxic shock

  1. Oh my Goodness. I am so sorry you’ve been through this experience. What a horrible time for you all but I am so glad you are all coming through this. Your advice is so good here. My little brother did this when he was younger and thankfully came out of it OK. I was always told to never remove the clothing as it can rip the skin away so am very thankful that I’ve read this. #MMWBH

    1. @wicked Thanks for your lovely message. Glad to hear your brother was okay. My husband was luckily able to rip the clothes off which the hospital said was a good thing. The NHS site recommends removing clothes but I think there are two schools of thought out there which makes it confusing. I guess it comes down to instinct at the time and you can’t blame yourself either way.

  2. The Mothers say – Firstly, we are so pleased that you have all come through this and we are really sorry to hear that this happened. Thank goodness your girl is OK and that the NHS were amazing. Your advice is brilliant and thank you for sharing the advice with us #MMWBH

  3. I am so sorry to hear what you have been through – my heart really goes out to you. I hope you don’t mind I have shared this post on the NCT branch Facebook group as I think it is important for other parents to read. I am very glad that your little girl is getting better now.

    1. Thanks for message and for sharing. If we can help anyone else out there avoid this then it would mean a lot. The cases for toxic shock through burns is on the rise and educating parents is the first step to helping manage it.

  4. A heartbreaking read but I’m so glad you shared it. We forget what our children can do (in terms of climbing and reaching) and toxic shock is rare indeed but I’m so glad you were in the right place when it happened. I’m relieved to hear your daughter recovered. You must have been in shock for some time. #beinspired

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