Prevention of Thermal Injury – The Philatelic Medium

Dr Anjana Bairagi1,2, Prof John Pearn1,2

1Centre For Children’s Burns & Trauma Research, Centre for Children’s Health Research, Brisbane, Australia, 2Pegg Leditschke Children’s Burns Centre, Queensland Children’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia


The philatelic record brings to public notice the three domains inherent in the management of thermal injury: rescue-to-rehabilitation chain; burns prevention and safety; and research into improved treatment.
Throughout the world, billions of postage stamps portray fire hazards, rescue services, first-aid for burns victims, and subsequent hospital care. Australia Post alone processes between 15 and 30 million letters daily. 1 Millions of Australian stamps have highlighted the threat to life and limb from fire; and promoted the first aid teaching of St John Ambulance and Red Cross. Millions of stamps have been cancelled with the slogan “Poor cold water on burns”. In February 2020, Australia Post issued the “Spray on Skin Cells” postage stamp. It highlighted the research of Professor Fiona Wood and Marie Stoner, in Perth.
The philatelic record promotes each of the six links in the chain of care following thermal injury. These sequential links are: rescue, bystander first aid, transport to hospital, emergency medical care, surgical intervention, and long-term rehabilitation.
Many nations have issued stamps portraying the rescue of burnt victims. These portray two themes – those of courage, indeed heroism, and the professional skills of firefighters, often in the face of mortal risk. Examples are the Great Britain “Fire and Rescue Services” series in 2009; and the “Emergency Responder” series by Canada Post in 2018. In 1988, Australia Post issued a one-dollar stamp, showing a bystander rescuing a child from a burning bushfire. Philately is a powerful tool to promote safety.


Dr Anjana Bairagi is a paediatric surgeon and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Pegg-Leditschke Burns and Trauma , Department of Surgery, Queensland Children’s Hospital.

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