Among domestic injuries in children, skin burns deserve special attention because they can lead to severe residual lesions. Their frequency has been reported to range from 3 to 8 per cent of all childhood injuries, but few epidemiological data have been collected in France. This study was undertaken to improve our knowledge of this public-health problem. A 20-item epidemiological questionnaire developed by the SFETB was used to collect prospective data on childhood burn injuries managed over a 12-month period in 14 burn centres and 18 paediatric surgery units in France. Of the 937 patients included in the study, 606 were contributed by burn centres and 331 by paediatric surgery units. Descriptive analysis and tests for correlations between several parameters showed that the typical burn-injury patient was a boy (61.6 per cent), with a mean age of 47 months, who suffered a scald burn (64.1 per cent) in the kitchen (56.2 per cent). The bathroom (13.6 per cent) was found to be an especially dangerous room because of the presence of hot water taps (shower, bathtub) and the high risk of an immersion injury. Burns due to ignition of volatile substances (16.95 per cent) were less common, but caused seven of the 11 deaths recorded in this survey. Most burn injuries were superficial lesions (59 per cent) covering less than 10 per cent of the body surface (56.2 per cent). However, grafting was required in 35 per cent of patients. Epidemiological surveys provide objective information on hazardous agents and on the settings in which burns are most likely to occur. They are essential for the development of appropriate preventive strategies, which are still receiving insufficient emphasis in the European Economic Community (EEC).
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