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A profile of hospital-admitted paediatric burns patients in South Africa

Asha Parbhoo1, Quinette A Louw1* and Karen Grimmer-Somers2*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, PO Box 19063, Tygerberg, 7505, South Africa

2 Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, City East Campus, North Terrace, Adelaide 5001, Australia

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:165  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-165

Published: 11 June 2010



Injuries and deaths from burns are a serious, yet preventable health problem globally. This paper describes burns in a cohort of children admitted to the Red Cross Children's Hospital, in Cape Town, South Africa.

This six month retrospective case note review looked at a sample of consecutively admitted patients from the 1 st April 2007 to the 30 th September 2007. Information was collected using a project-specific data capture sheet. Descriptive statistics (percentages, medians, means and standard deviations) were calculated, and data was compared between age groups. Spearman's correlation co-efficient was employed to look at the association between the total body surface area and the length of stay in hospital.


During the study period, 294 children were admitted (f= 115 (39.1%), m= 179 (60.9%)). Hot liquids caused 83.0% of the burns and 36.0% of these occurred in children aged two years or younger. Children over the age of five were equally susceptible to hot liquid burns, but the mechanism differed from that which caused burns in the younger child.


In South Africa, most hospitalised burnt children came from informal settlements where home safety is a low priority. Black babies and toddlers are most at risk for sustaining severe burns when their environment is disorganized with respect to safety. Burns injuries can be prevented by improving the home environment and socio-economic living conditions through the health, social welfare, education and housing departments.