Objective To describe the characteristics of childhood burns and scalds, mechanisms and agents to inform prevention.
Methods Prospective multicentred cross-sectional study of children (<16 years) with unintentional burns/scalds from five Emergency Departments (ED), a burns assessment unit and three regional children's Burns Units. Data collected: site, severity, distribution of the burn/scald, age, motor development of the child, agent and mechanism of the injury. Comparative analysis for children <5 and 5–16 years.
Results Of 1215 children, 58% (709) had scalds, 32% (390) contact burns and 116 burns from other causes, 17.6% (214/1215) were admitted to hospital and the remaining treated in ED or burns assessment centre. 72% (878) were <5 years, peak prevalence in 1-year-olds. Commonest scald agent (<5 years) was a cup/mug of hot beverage 55% (305/554), and commonest mechanism was a pull-down injury 48% (66/554). In 5–16-year-olds, scalds were from hot water 50% (78/155) and spill injuries 76% (118/155). Scalds affected the front of the body in 96% (680/709): predominantly to the face, arms and upper trunk in <5-year-olds, older children had scalds to the lower trunk, legs and hands. Contact burns (<5 years) were from touching 81% (224/277) hot items in the home, predominant agents: hair straighteners or irons 42% (117/277), oven hobs 27% (76/277), 5–16-year-olds sustained more outdoor injuries 46% (52/113). 67% (262/390) of all contact burns affected the hands.
Conclusions Scalds to infants and toddlers who pull hot beverages over themselves or sustain burns from touching irons, hair straighteners or oven hobs are a high priority for targeted prevention.
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