A cook's hands exploded into a "fireball" after she tried to burn some cardboard soon after applying hand sanitiser.

Grandmother Karen Brawn, from Gloucestershire, feared her whole body would go up in flames in the terrifying incident which left her with painful burns and singed hair.

As usual, she had applied some hand sanitiser after returning from a shopping trip to avoid catching coronavirus. Karen, 49, didn’t think twice about setting fire to some cardboard packaging but got a terrible fright when the 70% alcohol sparked a sudden explosion.

Explaining what happened, she said: “As I lit the cardboard there was this big ball of flame.

“It burned my hands and singed my hair and gave me a real shock.

"My daughter saw it and said it was amazing it missed my face and didn’t set fire to my top."

Karen Bawn was left in agony when her hands lit up in flames shortly after applying hand sanitiser

She has had to take a week off work with her injuries but says they could have been a lot worse if she had rubbed her face or dripped sanitiser on her chiffon-style top before putting the cardboard in the chiminea.

As a head cook and trained first-aider Karen is used to dealing with burns and scalds and quickly submerged her hands in cold water for 20 minutes and applied burn gel.

But she was in so much agony that she decided to go to hospital. “In the end I went to A&E,” she said. “As soon as I told the receptionist what had happened, her face said it all. I’ve since heard a few similar stories.”

Despite being painful the burns on her bandaged hands and wrists are superficial and will heal, but the mother of four has been signed off for a week because she cannot work. She says she has since heard of other cases, including a smoker, who suffered minor burns because of hands coated in sanitiser.

Coronavirus hand sanitiser
Karen wants to remind others of the dangers as Bonfire Night approaches

“At 49 you could say I’m old enough to know better about going near fire with 70 per cent alcohol on my hands,” she said.

“But hand sanitiser has become so much a part of our everyday lives we don’t really think about it any more.

“I put it on automatically because I’d been to the shops. We are constantly telling little ones to use it, but we need to be careful.”

And as bonfire night approaches, the grandmother from Newent, says people must remember the alcohol content of many santisers means it should be treated with caution because it is flammable.

The NHS advises people to use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available but Public Health Health England withdrew original Covid guidance to only use sanitiser that is at least 60 per cent alcohol in March.

A spokesman for Public Health England said they could not comment because “the flammability of hand sanitiser is not a public health issue”.

Karen applied Carex hand sanitiser, one of the UK’s most popular and trusted antibacterial brands.

A Carex spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to learn of the customer’s distressing accident.

"Consumer safety is the key consideration in our product design; to be effective in killing bacteria and viruses such as Coronavirus, our hand gels are formulated with 70% alcohol which is flammable, and consumers should follow the guidelines on our packaging which advise customers not to use near any naked flames or sources of ignition”

In July NHS Property Services retracted a warning to front line staff that hand sanitiser kept in vehicles can pose a fire risk, after the National Fire Chiefs Council refuted the reports of car fires.

At the time Roy Wilsher, NFCC Chair warned people to keep it away from a naked flame and said: ". For hand sanitiser to cause a fire it would need to come into contact with a spark."