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When are burns not accidental?
  1. C J Hobbs


    One hundred and ninety five children aged up to 6 years with burns and scalds (30 non-accidental and 165 accidental) were studied retrospectively. The history, presentation, and other typical injuries assisted the diagnosis of abuse. Scalds accounted for 81% of accidents and 25% of the cases of abuse, and burns for 17% and 44%, respectively. Scalds usually followed spillage from kitchen containers in accidents and forced tap water immersion in cases of abuse. Burns in cases of both accidents and abuse resulted from contact with a wide range of household appliances, including room heaters. Attention is drawn to the back of the hand as an important site in cases of abuse, as well as the legs, buttocks, and feet. It is speculated that the low level of reporting of this form of child abuse reflects failure of diagnosis.

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