Burn wound swabs – why, when, what and how?

Madeleine JacquesSharon Welsh2, Kelly Waddell3

1 The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, NSW, 2145, Madeleine.Jacques@health.nsw.gov.au


Infection of burn wounds can lead to significant morbidity including delayed healing times, wound breakdown and graft failure. Disruption of the normal skin barrier, coupled with a protein rich exudate, necrotic tissue and foreign material provide an ideal environment for colonisation, proliferation and subsequent invasion (Alwari et al. 2013).

At the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, paediatric burn wounds are routinely swabbed on initial presentation, prior to operative intervention (skin grafting) and otherwise if clinically indicated. Topical antimicrobial dressing use is considered dependent upon the burn and first aid history, location and timeliness of access to appropriate medical treatment. Oral antibiotics are not routinely prescribed and are only indicated when infection (moderate to heavy growth) is proven.

A 3 month audit of wound swab results led to exploration of current staff practices along with review of our current policy and identification of the need for further staff education. This was coupled with a review of current literature. Through reviewing this issue we aim to identify areas for service and practice improvement.

Key Words

Infection, burn, swab


Transitional Nurse Practitioner – Paediatric outpatient burnsThe Children’s Hospital at Westmead


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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