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Scalds are the most common cause of burn injuries in preschool children.1
We performed a retrospective study at the Wessex Regional Burns Unit, Salisbury, UK, which yielded information on the pattern of scald injuries in children under the age of 5 years during the period 1995–99 inclusive. These results were compared with similar studies published from the same unit from 1960–65 and 1980–85 inclusive.2
Altogether 276 children were admitted with scalds, and case notes were retrieved in 215 cases. Eighty five per cent of children were under the age of 3 years with the greatest proportion being in the age range of 1–2 years; 59% of scalds occurred in boys. Forty one per cent of scalds were due to a spilt hot drink. Water in hot kettles and baths accounted for only 16% and 17%, respectively.
Figures from the Child Accident Prevention Trust report for 1999 reveal that hot liquids were the cause of 70% of thermal injuries in children, with hot drinks being the single most common cause.3 The way in which tea and coffee are prepared appear to influence the pattern of scalds.4 A number of scalds resulted when the carer’s back was turned in order to fetch milk.
Figures for scald admissions show no discernible decrease over the three study periods despite the population at risk and the cause of scald injuries being clearly identified.2
We suggest that the parent held child health record would be a useful tool to educate parents about the risk of spilt hot drinks in this vulnerable population. Educating health visitors to emphasise these issues, targeting playgroups and nurseries, and using the media more effectively are other ways of addressing this problem. It is imperative that more information on preventative strategies is provided if a reduction in scalds is to be seen.