Home and Community Safety & Health Safety COVID-19

Children’s burn injuries rose during early part of pandemic: Pediatrician group

Photo: miracsaglam/iStockphoto

Itasca, IL — Unintentional burn injuries among children climbed 32.5% during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the same period in the previous year, new research from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows.

Researchers analyzed March-September data from 2019 and 2020 from nine Level I pediatric trauma centers. They found that 522 children were treated for burn injuries in 2020, compared with 394 prior in 2019.

The researchers say the marked increase likely stemmed from children being out of school “for extended periods of time” as a result of stay-at-home orders.

Although all types of burns increased during the pandemic period, fireworks may have triggered the surge in burns from exposure to open fire. The study abstract states that the difference in unintentional burn injuries between 2019 and 2020 was largest in July, which coincides with the widespread cancellation of professional fireworks shows for the Independence Day holiday in 2020.

“COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders inevitably created a new dynamic between children and their social environment,” abstract co-author Christina Georgeades, a physician and pediatric surgery research fellow at Children’s Wisconsin, said in a press release. “Understanding specific factors that contributed will be key in minimizing the risk of future burn injuries as we continue to navigate the pandemic environment.”

To mitigate the risk of burns around the home, AAP recommendations include:

  • Install at least one smoke detector on every floor of the home, testing them monthly.
  • Practice home fire drills.
  • Keep several working fire extinguishers around the home where the risk of fire is greatest, such as in the kitchen and furnace room, as well as near the fireplace.
  • Teach children to crawl to the exit if smoke has filled the room, and to stop, drop and roll on the ground if their clothing catches fire.
  • Help avoid tap water scalds by adjusting your water heater so the warmest temperature at the faucet is no hotter than 120° F.
  • Avoid overloading extension cords.
  • Keep matches and lighters locked up and out of reach of children.
  • Avoid all fireworks.

AAP offers guidance for treating burns:

  • Soak the burn in cool water as quickly as possible. Don’t treat burns with ice; rubbing; or home remedies such as butter, grease or powder.
  • Immediately soak smoldering clothing with water, then remove clothing from the burned area. If clothing is stuck firmly to the skin, cut away material as much as possible.
  • Cover the burn with a sterile gauze pad or a clean, dry cloth if the injured area isn’t oozing.
  • If a burn is oozing, cover it lightly with sterile gauze and seek medical attention immediately.

The abstract was presented Oct. 10 as part of the virtual AAP National Conference & Exhibition.

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