Hot Beverage Scalds in Australian Children: Still Simmering 10 Years On

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Abstract

The objectives of this study are to describe the proportion, mechanism, severity, and outcomes of hot beverage scald injuries in children presenting at a major burns centre in 2013 and to compare these results with data collected at the same centre 10 years before. A cross-sectional trend analysis was performed to determine the differences in proportion, mechanism, severity, and outcomes of hot beverage scalds in 0-year to 14-year old children presenting to the Stuart Pegg Paediatric Burns Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia, between January 1 and December 31, 2013 and compare these data to presentations at the same burns centre between 1999 and 2002. Of the 759 children treated for burns and scald injuries at Stuart Pegg Paediatric Burns Centre in 2013, 133 (18%) were caused by hot beverages. Although there has been no change in the proportion, injury mechanism or age groups affected in the past 10 years, there has been a significant change in the number of children being admitted to hospital (52% vs 11% in 2013, P < .001), requiring split skin grafts (18% vs 5% in 2013, P < .05), and long-term scar management (26% vs 11% in 2013, P < .05). The decrease in admissions, skin grafts, and scar management requirements can be attributed to several factors; moving from silver sulfadiazine to silver-impregnated dressings at SPBBC from 2003, changes in excision and skin grafting practices, modified referral patterns, a move to non-inpatient care for minor burns, and the increased application of first aid. However, what has not changed is hot beverage scalds remain the leading cause of childhood burns making it a major pediatric public health issue.

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