Do emergency services and general practitioners follow current first-aid guidelines in the early management of paediatric burns?

Mr Cody Frear1Dr Bronwyn Griffin1, Professor Roy Kimble1

1Centre For Children’s Burns And Trauma Research; The University Of Queensland


Background: In the treatment of burns, the provision of cool running water (CRW) first-aid is known to significantly improve clinical outcomes. Due to poor knowledge of and adherence to appropriate first-aid guidelines among the Australian public, it frequently falls to ambulances, general practitioners (GPs), and Emergency Departments (EDs) to provide patients with adequate CRW.
Objective: This study aims to determine the effectiveness of healthcare providers involved in the early burns management in ensuring the delivery of adequate CRW to children with acute burns.
Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed using a registry containing first-aid details for every patient presenting to the burns centre of a quaternary children’s hospital.
Results: Of the 3,205 children referred to the burns centre, 71.2% received adequate first-aid, 30.4% at the scene of injury. Both paramedics and GPs administered appropriate CRW in less than 25% of cases among patients with previously inadequate first-aid. ED clinicians were generally more effective at rectifying prior lapses in first-aid protocol, although the quality of first-aid varied significantly between EDs. Notably, patients were significantly more likely to receive adequate CRW at the quaternary hospital’s ED than at a referral centre ED (80.9% vs. 54.2%; p<0.05).
Conclusion: Among the healthcare providers studied, only the quaternary hospital’s ED administered adequate CRW to a large majority of its patients, with paramedics and GPs falling well short of current first-aid guidelines. This discrepancy highlights the potential value of disseminating the hospital’s burns-related training programs and educational resources to other providers of acute burns care.


Cody C. Frear is an MD/PhD candidate at The University of Queensland. He joined the Centre for Children’s Burns & Trauma Research in 2016.


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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