The epidemiology of paediatric burn injuries in Johannesburg, South Africa


      • What are the main take home messages from this article?
      • Children under the age of two years and children of minority populations appear to have a disproportionally higher risk for burn injuries than other population groups.
      • In the community there is inadequate use of appropriate first aid for burn injury.
      • Suggested places for education about burn injury prevention and first aid prevention could include vaccination centres where the target population frequents.
      • Identified areas of further research include understanding caregivers, referral patterns and risk factors for severe burns.



      Children remain the most common victim of burns in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study describes the epidemiology of paediatric burn injury among patients admitted to Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital.


      Hospital based cross-sectional, prospective study.


      509 patients were admitted to the unit over a 12-month period, with 482 patients included for baseline analysis. 50% of admitted patients were between 15 and 47 months with a median age of 25 months. 58% of participants were male. The predominant mechanism of injury was scalding (84%), in the winter season (32%). The most common site of burn was upper limb (75%). 63% of all admissions received first aid. Among those who received first aid, a described first aid method was provided in 74% of the cases. 226 out of 482 participants (47%) provided sociodemographic information. Access to basic amenities was high, with most admissions coming from households with access to electricity (91%). 90% of caregivers held at least a high school leaving certificate. Migrant caregivers made 19% of the caregivers, which was four times the proportion of foreign nationals counted in the national census. Most admissions (79%) were referrals from other centres as opposed to walk-ins. Severe burns were associated with thermal mechanism of injury, multiple burn sites, and receiving first aid prior to admission.


      Children under two years of age and children of minority groups are at greatest risk for burn injury and should therefore be targeted for injury prevention strategies and education on appropriate first aid.

      Level of evidence

      According to the Journal of pediatric Surgery, this research corresponds to Level II evidence as a prospective study with less than 80% follow-up.


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