In South Africa burns affect 3.2% of the population annually and are particularly common among children. In Scotland paediatric burns are generally much less common and less severe. This study aimed to explore the epidemiological differences in the emergency presentation of paediatric burns in the Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital (RACH) in Scotland and the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital (RXH) in Cape Town. Data was retrieved retrospectively for all paediatric burns presenting in 2009 from RACH patient records and the RXH trauma database. Data was recorded in Microsoft Excel for subsequent statistical analysis. During 2009 RACH received 192 children with burns (1% total emergencies) and RXH received 994 (11% total emergencies). Children ≤ 2 years old were the most commonly injured age group in both centres. At RXH most children came from informal settlements and were of low socioeconomic status, while RACH patients were evenly distributed among all socioeconomic groups. Burn injuries were significantly more likely to present in the evening at both centres (p<0.05), and during Cape Town's winter (p<0.05), but no significant monthly variation occurred in Aberdeen. At RACH most burns involved the hands and were single site (79%) while at RXH most were multiple site (76%) and involved the face. At RACH the commonest modes of injury were scald (45%) and contact burn (43%), while at RXH scalds accounted for the majority (77%). At RACH 89% children were discharged immediately, whereas 49% of RXH patients were admitted to the burn unit. Paediatric burns are more common and generally more severe in Cape Town than in Aberdeen. All children have the right to a safe environment and protection from harm; to reduce the high burns incidence in Cape Town preventative strategies should be targeted at creating safer homes.
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