Itching following burns: epidemiology and predictors

Br J Dermatol. 2008 Jan;158(1):95-100. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2007.08278.x. Epub 2007 Nov 6.


Background: Itching (pruritus) following burns is a well-known clinical problem. However, there are no long-term prospective studies that document the course and the extent of the problem. Studies on risk factors are anecdotal.

Objectives: To study self-reported itching in a multicentre cohort among adults with burns at 3, 12 and 24 months postburn. Further, to examine psychological and injury characteristics in relation to itching at these three points in time.

Methods: Itching was assessed as part of a self-report scar complaint list in a prospective longitudinal cohort study. Injury characteristics, demographics and self-reported post-traumatic stress symptoms were examined as possible risk factors in three linear regression models.

Results: A total of 510 persons participated. The reported prevalence rates of mild to severe itching were as high as 87%, 70% and 67% at the three respective points in time. Significant predictors of itching at all three points in time were deep dermal injury and early post-traumatic stress symptoms. Along with these, total burned surface area and female gender were predictors at 3 months postburn.

Conclusions: Itching remains a significant problem over a 2-year period. Individuals having undergone surgical procedures and experiencing early post-traumatic distress are more likely to suffer from long-term and persistent itching. Implications regarding practice and research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Burns / complications*
  • Burns / epidemiology
  • Burns / surgery
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Pruritus / epidemiology
  • Pruritus / etiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications