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Scald burns in children under 3 years: an analysis of NEISS narratives to inform a scald burn prevention program
  1. Wendy C Shields,
  2. Eileen M McDonald,
  3. Kaitlin Pfisterer,
  4. Andrea C Gielen
  1. Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Wendy Shields, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 North Broadway, Room 519, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; wshields{at}


Background objectives To determine the incidence of paediatric scald burns for children under 3 years of age treated in US hospital emergency departments. To quantify injury patterns associated with scald burns to inform prevention recommendation messaging.

Methods The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) coding manual was reviewed for cause of injury. Its database was queried to identify cases among patients up to age 3 years old with a diagnosis of scald burns between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2012. The resulting data set was downloaded and case narratives were reviewed to identify injury patterns associated with scald burns.

Results The NEISS query identified 2104 scald burn cases between 2009 and 2012, yielding a national estimate of 11 028 scald burns in children younger than 3 years old annually. The analysis of the case narratives resulted in the identification of six precipitating and/or contributing factors including: grabbed/pulled, cooking, bathing, consuming, appliance and other.

Conclusions NEISS is a valuable tool to identify scald burn risks. The NEISS data system provided an opportunity to identify and examine scald burns in children under 3 years of age. Interpretation of NEISS results is limited due to the lack of consistency and detail in narratives about the injury event. Nevertheless, the information that was available on precipitating and/or contributing factors suggests that caretakers should test the temperature of their water heaters, test bath water before bathing children and be made aware of risk of scalds from hot liquids so that they exercise close supervision of children.

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