Too hot to handle? Full thickness burn injury in a child caused by cyanoacrylate glue and cotton – a case report and experimental study

Ms Madeleine Jacques1, Dr Monique Bertinetti1, Dr Andrew Holland1,2

1The Children’s Hospital At Westmead, , Australia, 2The University of Sydney, , Australia


Domestic superglue (cyanoacrylate) use by children can have devastating consequences, especially when cotton clothing is involved. When cotton comes into contact with cyanoacrylate an intense exothermic reaction occurs, creating temperatures high enough to cause significant thermal injury. A literature review found 16 such cases of burns documented. We present a case report of a 4-year-old child sustaining a full thickness burn injury requiring skin grafting when superglue was spilt onto cotton pants whilst sitting near a fan heater.

An experiment was conducted to replicate the exothermic reaction between superglue and cotton, and to determine if the addition of radiant heat would have any significant effect. The maximum temperature reached with one 3-gram tube of superglue onto cotton pyjamas was 91⁰C and occurred approximately 90-seconds post application. It took more than 3 minutes for the temperature to cool below 40⁰C. The addition of radiant heat from a fan heater found that the temperature peak was similarly reached and cooled, but the temperature was sustained at 52⁰C for over 20 minutes proving that potential harm may be amplified if first aid is not appropriately sought.

This little-known injury mechanism challenges current burn classification and may provide a foundation for staff education and expansion of burn injury categories.

Product labelling and the knowledge of potential harm from such mechanism of injury remains inadequate. It is hoped that the reporting of this case contributes to an increase in public education and awareness of such dangers and may contribute to preventing avoidable future incidences.


Madeleine is Australia’s second paediatric burns NP and alongside her NP colleague Kelly, delivers ambulatory and outreach services to children with burn injuries throughout the state of New South Wales. She is passionate about paediatric burns and has worked in the area for 12 years.

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