Looking for answers beyond the scald: A cross-sectional survey

Jacqueline Burgess1, Cate Cameron2 , KerrianneWatt3, Roy Kimble1

1 Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research, University of Queensland. Brisbane, Queensland 4101. jacquii@uq.edu.au roy.k@uq.edu.au
2 Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Logan campus, Meadowbrook, Queensland 4131 cate.cameron@griffith.edu.au
3 College of Public Health, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811 kerrianne.watt@jcu.edu.au

Hot beverage scalds are the leading cause of burn injuries in young children, accounting for 1 in 5 of all burns treated. The aim of this study was to elicit detailed information on the setting, supervision, mechanism and first aid use in children presenting at a major paediatric burns unit in order to inform a hot beverage scald prevention campaign.

The cross sectional survey was delivered via an iPad to parents and caregivers of children aged 0 to 36 months presenting with a hot beverage scald, usually at the child’s first dressing change.

59 parents/caregivers completed the survey. The main mechanism of injury was the child pulling the cup of hot liquid over themselves. 10% of the scalds occurred when the child was under the care of a grandparent, and an additional 28% occurred when a grandparent was present at the scene. Lack of supervision was not a contributing factor, with 48% of scalds occurring when the caregiver was within arms reach and 24% were less than five metres away. 96% of participants applied first aid at the scene – of these 61% applied cool running water – but only 28% applied it for 20-minutes duration. The main reason given for cooling the burn for less than 20 minutes was the child was too distressed. 60% reported undertaking some form of first aid training in the past.

The high incidence of these scalds make it an important paediatric public health issue, yet is often overlooked in research and injury prevention.

Key Words

Hot beverage scalds, paediatrics, prevention, burn first aid


Jacquii’s background is in nursing, journalism and marketing. She has combined these skills and knowledge with an interest in preventing disease and injury rather than treating them in the hospital setting, through health promotion, health education and injury prevention. Jacquii is in the final year of her PhD, which is focussed on preventing paediatric burns – specifically hot beverage scalds.

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