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Patterns of burns and scalds in children
  1. A M Kemp,
  2. S Jones,
  3. Z Lawson,
  4. S A Maguire
  1. Early Years Research Programme, Institute of Primary Care and Public Health, Cardiff University, Heath Park, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Alison Mary Kemp, Institute of Primary Care and Public Health, Cardiff University, 4th Floor Neuadd Meirionydd, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4YS, UK; kempam{at}


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.

  • Epidemiology
  • Adolescent Health
  • Injury Prevention
  • Accident & Emergency

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