Vaporisers: A Danger in Paediatric Burns

Dr Teagan Fink1, Dr Courtney Hall1, Ms Alenka Paddle1, A/Prof Warwick Teague2

1Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery Unit, Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville, Australia, 2Burns Unit, Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville, Australia


Hot steam vaporisers are increasingly common in Australia, however are also a cause of paediatric burns. To understand the incidence and health burden of these burns in children, we undertook retrospective data collection from inpatient and outpatient treatment settings at a large tertiary paediatric hospital. Across the time period of May 2015 to May 2018, we analysed demographics, location of burn, total body surface area (TBSA), activity at the time of the burn, first aid measures, surgical management and complications.

Of the 37 vaporiser burns in children, 98% of cases were under the age of 2 years and 73% were males. All were managed in the outpatient or day surgery setting. The most common location was the hand (92%), affecting less than 1% TBSA. Three cases sustained 3 or 4% TBSA burns. 27% of burns required surgical management, and complications were found in 14% of cases. More than half of the children were unsupervised when the burn was sustained. Unfortunately, just 19% of children received the recommended first aid for burns in Australia, highlighting an important education point.

Despite these products being marketed for relief of symptoms of nasal congestion and viral illnesses, there currently exists little clinically sound evidence to support these claims. Furthermore, our study shows these items can cause significant morbidity in a paediatric burns population. More research is required to fully characterise the risk benefit profile of this household item, however caution is essential when using a vaporiser around children.


Dr Teagan Fink is a Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgical Resident at the Royal Children’s Hospital.  During her six month rotation with the unit, she undertook research into paedatric burns.  She is also a Surgical Resident at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.


ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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