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Study: these are the most common burn-related injuries in children

campfire related burns
By Livia Gamble

The results of a recent study come as a warning for parents during the school holidays.

A report from Monash University found more kids present to hospital with burn-related injuries during the holidays than the school term.

“Unfortunately this number is on the rise”

Dr Lincoln Tracy, Monash University researcher and study co-author, says most of these injuries occur “during recreational or leisure activities”, which increase during the holidays.

The latest report confirms previous anecdotal and local evidence that a significant number of paediatric burns occur during school holiday periods. Unfortunately this number is on the rise,” Lincoln says.

“Our findings suggest that school-aged children who sustained burn injuries during school holiday periods are younger … and are more commonly injured during recreational or leisure activities.”

Researchers gathered data on children aged between four and 18 years old from the Burn Registry of Australia & New Zealand (BRANZ), who were admitted to hospital between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2018.

Babies and toddlers suffering burns too

The results found burn injuries do increase during the school holidays – but that’s not all.

There were 25,871 patients recorded who were injured during this period. Of those, 5056 (19.5%) were babies and toddlers between the ages of 0 and 3 years, which is worrying.

Additionally, 4215 (16.3%) were aged four and 18 years old.

The report adds that “approximately one third of burn injuries in patients between the ages of four and 18 years occurred during school holiday periods.”

“A greater number of burn injuries occurred during the school holidays than the school term (as measured by the number of burns per week).”

Most common causes of burns

Researchers found the most common source of burns was from children coming in contact with vehicle exhausts, coals, and ashes. 

“Typical examples of these injuries would be children falling off a motorcycle and having their leg caught under the hot exhaust pipe. Or children walking over the remains of a campfire that had not been properly extinguished and marked,” says the report.

Dr Monique Bertinetti, Paediatric Burn Surgeon at the Burn Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and co-author of the report, says burns can happen in seconds.

“Exhaust pipes on cars and motorbikes become so hot they can burn skin in seconds. Care should be taken when riding or walking past hot exhausts. Burns from hot exhausts happen quickly, often require surgery, and leave scars that last a lifetime,” Monique said. 

“Coals and ashes can severely burn”

Parents also need to take extra care when extinguishing campfires. 

“When sand is used to cover a campfire, it not only makes it harder to identify as a prior fire site, it also allows the coals lying underneath to retain heat for several days,” she says.

“The coals and ashes can severely burn the feet of children who unknowingly walk across these sites with or without wearing shoes.”

How to treat a burn

Sarah Huntstead is the director of CPR Kids. She says burns are common in curious babies and toddlers.

If your baby suffers a burn, the first thing parents must do is run the skin under cold water for a minimum of 20 minutes.

What many people don’t realise is that even though the heat source has been removed, the skin will continue to burn. So running water for at least of 20 minutes is essential. 

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