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Burns In Pediatrics

One of the most common causes of hospital admission of pediatric patients is burns. Most pediatric burns occur at home. The most common cause of burns in young children is exposure to hot liquids (scald injury) such as hot water. Contact with hot objects is the second most common cause of burn in young children. Pediatric burns differ from adult burns in many aspects.

Their skin is more sensitive and less resistant to heat and because it is harder for them to escape from the burning object, this may lead to longer exposure which may increase the burn severity.

Pediatrics have a smaller body size than adults with a greater body surface area in relation to their weight. Fluid loss is proportionally greater in young children when compared to the same percentage of burn in adults because of their smaller circulating volume and different distribution of body fluids leading to more rapid onset of fluid and electrolyte disturbance and imbalance. Therefore pediatrics especially infants develop hypovolemic shock faster and fluid replacement should be started as soon as possible which is calculated according to certain formulas.

Small children are at a greater risk to have a decrease in body temperature (hypothermia) due to the insufficiency of their thermoregulatory system, they are less tolerant to changes in temperature (see regulation of body temperature).

In case there is a burn to the genital area and the child is still wearing diapers, special attention should be taken as the burned area may be contaminated easily making it more susceptible for infection.

Pediatric patients with burns are harder to cannulate (insert a cannula) than adults and the smaller the child is the harder it is. Airway intubation is also harder in pediatrics than adults and the smaller the child is, the harder it is to intubate especially after burns that affect the airways. That is why trachiostomy is sometimes needed.

One of the things that differentiate small children from adults is the inability of small children to speak and express what they feel. The parents play a major role in this case because they know their child better than anyone else and know when there is something wrong with him/her. Therefore when your child is to be discharged you have to make sure that your child is feeling well.

Prevention of scald burns:

  • Water heater thermostat should not be set higher than 120 degrees.
  • Bathtub water should be checked before putting the child in the tub.
  • Never leave the child in the bathtub alone as he/she might turn on the facet or the water may become too hot and lead to scaled injury.
  • Keep hot liquids out of the reach of children like turning pot handles on the stove out of the reach of children.
  • Avoid carrying hot object while carrying the child.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission a child exposed to hot tap water of 140 degree for three seconds develops a third degree burn.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics between 2001 and 2005, each year approximately 116,600 children are treated for fire/burn injuries. Fires and burns are the third leading cause of unintentional death among children aged 1-14 years in 2004.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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