Childhood burns in Ghana: epidemiological characteristics and home-based treatment

Burns. 1995 Feb;21(1):24-8. doi: 10.1016/0305-4179(95)90776-v.


The objectives of this research were to study the epidemiological characteristics and home-based treatment of childhood burns in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Children aged 0-5 years with a burn history were identified through a community-based, multisite survey. A standard questionnaire was administered to mothers of 630 of these children to elicit information on their sociodemographic characteristics and the circumstances of the burn event. Ninety-two per cent of the burns occurred in the home, particularly in the kitchen (51 per cent) and the house yard (36 per cent), with most of them happening in the late morning and around the evening meal. The main causes of the burns were scalds (45 per cent), contact with a hot object (34 per cent) and flame (20 per cent). 'Cool' water was applied to the burned area in 30 per cent of cases. Otherwise, treatment with a traditional preparation was the most popular first-aid choice. Since a considerable proportion of burns happened between meals when children 'play with fire' in the house yard, the provision of alternative play activities and community play areas may reduce the incidence of burns to these children. Secondly, we recommend that education on first-aid management of burns be intensified, with special emphasis on alternatives to the use of traditional preparations.

PIP: The epidemiologic characteristics and home-based treatment of childhood burns in Ghana's Ashanti Region were investigated through interviews with mothers of 630 children 0-5 years of age with a burn history. The mean age at burn was 28 months. 88% of burns occurred in the child's home, primarily in the kitchen or on the veranda. The most common cause of burn was scalding with hot water, oil, or food (45%), followed by contact with a hot object such as a cooking source (33%). The upper extremity was the body part most frequently affected. Peak times for burns were the late morning period when children were left at home and the evening meal period. Home-based treatment was administered to 75% of burned children. Traditional preparations such as mud, burned snail shell, and eggs were relied upon in rural areas, while Gentian Violet paint was the treatment of choice in urban areas. In 48% of cases, the child was taken to a modern health facility, but only 68% of these cases presented within 24 hours of the injury. The main reasons for delayed presentation were a lack of knowledge of the seriousness of the burn (33%), financial problems (32%), and time constraints (12%). These findings indicate a need for improved supervision of children around heat sources and health education to promote alternatives to traditional, nonhygienic methods of burn treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Burns / epidemiology*
  • Burns / etiology
  • Burns / physiopathology
  • Burns / therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Ghana / epidemiology
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Home Nursing / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Sex Distribution