Burns in young children: a retrospective matched cohort study of health and developmental outcomes

Child Care Health Dev. 2010 Nov;36(6):787-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01106.x.


Background: Unintentional injuries are a major cause of death and disability in childhood. Most burns are unintentional, the majority occurring in pre-school children. Little is known about the outcomes of young children following burns. The purpose of this study was to examine the presenting features of burned children and compare their health and developmental outcomes with controls.

Methods: Children under 3 years admitted to the Welsh Regional Burns Centre between September 1994 and August 1997 were studied up to their sixth birthday (final data collection 2003) to ascertain the nature, course and cause of their burn. One hundred and forty-five burned children were matched with 145 controls. Their physical, psychosocial and educational health status was compared. Retrospective data were gathered from hospital notes, social services, emergency department databases, child health surveillance records and schools.

Results: Burns peaked at age 13-18 months were typically sustained by scalding, drink spillage and contact with hot objects. They occurred most frequently at mealtimes and 89.7% were judged to be unintentional. There was a high rate of non-attendance for follow-up - 24%. The families of children admitted with burns were more likely to have moved home than those of controls (P = 0.001). By age 6 significantly more cases were admitted to hospital with an unrelated condition (P = 0.018). There were no differences between the cases and controls in immunization status, development, school attendance and educational progress up to the age of 6 years (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: We found important findings in relation to unintentional injury prevention and also noted markers that may indicate inequalities in health service utilization between cases and controls. There were no major differences between developmental and educational outcomes in the two groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home / statistics & numerical data*
  • Burns / epidemiology*
  • Burns / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wales