A systematic review of the epidemiology of unintentional burn injuries in South Asia

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Abstract

Background

Burns are a significant cause of mortality and morbidity in developing countries. We examined the epidemiology of unintentional burns in South Asia to identify trends and gaps in information.

Methods

A MEDLINE/PUBMED search (1970–2011) was undertaken on empirical studies that focused on burns in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Data analyzed included demographics, injury details and risk factors.

Results

Twenty-seven studies were identified, mostly from India. Burns were more common among males at younger ages (0–12 years) and among females from adolescence onward (>14 years). Flame-related burns and scalds accounted for over 80% of burns in most cases, and were the most common types of injuries observed among children and women with most burns occurring in the home. Electrical burns occurred mostly among men. Important risk factors for burns included low socioeconomic status, being younger, wearing loose, flammable clothing and the use of kerosene. Data on care-seeking and treatment were limited.

Conclusions

Preventing burns in the household in South Asia, particularly around kitchen activities, is essential. Children in South Asia are susceptible to burns and are an important target population. Future research should focus on filling the gaps in burn epidemiology found in this review.

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