Barriers to adequate first-aid for paediatric burns at the scene of the injury

Mr Cody Frear1, Dr Bronwyn Griffin1, Prof Kerrianne Watt1,2, Prof Roy Kimble1

1Centre for Children’s Burns & Trauma Research, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 2College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, Townsville, Australia

Issue Addressed

The recommended first-aid therapy for burn injuries, 20 minutes of cold running water (CRW), offers a free and effective means of improving health outcomes across a range of metrics. Nevertheless, low rates of adequate first-aid still persist nationwide among paediatric burns patients. The aim of this study is to analyse first-aid interventions for paediatric burns across Queensland to identify any possible socioeconomic or demographic barriers to the delivery of first-aid at the scene of the injury.


A cross-sectional study was performed on consecutive patients treated by the Lady Cilento Burns Unit. First-aid interventions were evaluated as either “adequate” or “inadequate”, and then descriptive analyses were conducted to examine differences between the groups in age, ethnicity, nationality, and socioeconomic status, among others.


From 2013 to 2016, parents of 2,522 burns patients were interviewed. Overall, 31.5% received adequate CRW at the scene of the injury. Rates of adequate CRW did not significantly differ with sex, ethnicity, or nationality. However, several factors were associated with inadequate first-aid, including very young age and early adolescence (p<0.001), rural or remote location (p=0.045), low socioeconomic status (p=0.030), radiant heat and flame burns (p<0.001), as well as burns occurring at recreational sites and in the street (p=0.001).


Large deficiencies were observed in rates of adequate first-aid across all ages and demographics. The most undertreated groups indicate that first-aid training is particularly needed among caregivers of the very young, adolescents aged 15-16, those living rurally or remotely, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.

Cody C. Frear is a medical student at The University of Queensland. He joined the Centre for Children’s Burns & Trauma Research in 2016. His research focuses on first-aid therapies for paediatric burns.

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