Burn injuries are a devastating type of trauma that often has long-term physical and psychological consequences. This study reports on the incidence rates, demographics, and external causes of all burn-related deaths and hospital admissions among Canadian children aged 0-19 years from 1994-2003. Data on burn-related fatalities were collected from Statistics Canada, hospital admissions data were taken from the Canadian Institute of Health Information, and population estimates were derived from Canadian census data. Differences in the frequency and severity of burns were analyzed using analysis of variance and chi-square statistical tests.
Findings revealed that over the 10-year period examined, 494 children died and 10,229 were admitted to hospitals for burn-related injuries. The highest fatality rate was among children aged one to four years. Males were about twice as likely to be burn victims as females within all age groups, indicating that males’ greater exposure to burn injury hazards were present in infancy and peaked during adolescence. Scalding by hot liquids and vapour was the cause of half of all paediatric burns. Overall, and in each age group, there was a significant decline in burn injuries over the 10-year period. Results also showed a relatively low incidence rate (1.33%) of intentional burns.
Limitations of this study include: the reliability of administrative data, as the rigor with which such data is audited is questionable compared to data collected for research purposes; possible misclassification of external causes due to revisions made to the coding system in the last three years of reported time; and a lack of detailed information about the situations leading to the burn injury. The results suggest a clear reduction in the number of burn injuries requiring hospital admission which may be partly attributable to increased safety initiatives, burn prevention education, and improved burn treatment.