Protecting Texas Children Against Burn Injuries

Parkland Emergency 1

According to one scholarly article, burns rank number three on the list of the most common childhood injuries that can lead to death (behind motor vehicle accidents and drowning). Although children’s overall death rates from burn injuries significantly decreased between 1999 and 2013, the number of deaths from fires and burns dramatically increased by 30% between 2012 and 2013.

This data clearly indicates that every adult must start doing more to fully protect children in all settings. Parents, teachers, and all other caregivers must take proactive steps to prevent children from accessing hot water faucets and matches – or climbing onto or touching dangerously hot surfaces. Constant supervision is critical since the majority of children’s burn injuries are due to hot liquid scalds. Kids are also often injured or killed as a result of electrical or chemical burns.

Additional Data About Common Causes of Children’s (& Adults’) Burn Injuries/Deaths

  • It can take as little as two minutes. That’s how long it often takes for most homes or apartments to fill up with life-threatening fire and black smoke. Many of these injuries occur at night;
  • Emergency room visits remain much too high. During 2013, approximately 126,000 children needed ER treatment for their fire and burn injuries;
  • The highest burn death rates are regularly suffered by infants and toddlers. About 44% of the fire/burn-related deaths of children in 2013 were incurred by children age four and under. Tragically, their curiosity while inspecting their surroundings may prove deadly. In fact, children age four and under are four times more likely to suffer serious burn injuries or deaths than children between the ages of 10 and 14;
  • Too many families have failed to create and demonstrate fire escape plans to their children. Kids must be shown what they should do as soon as they hear a smoke alarm go off during the day or night. You need to actually show them where they should meet you so everyone can try to safely exit together, after scooping up any infants/toddlers (and pets, if possible);
  • What are two of the greatest dangers present in many homes that often lead to fire/burn-related injuries and deaths? A failure to properly install and maintain a good smoke alarm — and using dangerous cooking equipment;
  • Always equip your home, especially the kitchen, with the most appropriate type of fire extinguisher. Many apartment complexes are finally starting to install these in every unit. Homeowners should purchase at least one – and request “hands-on” instructions on how to quickly and appropriately use one to put out fires. Remember, different types of fire extinguishers are required for fires – depending on the substances being burned.

Once you’ve taken your child suffering from serious burns to the emergency room, be ready to confer with his/her regular pediatrician to select the best treatment plan possible. Fortunately, Texas has a number of hospitals fully approved by the American Burn Association. However, you’ll need to ask each of them if they also have pediatric burn units.

According to the Consideration for Pediatric Consultation and Transfer drafted by a work team of the Governor’s EMS and Trauma Advisory Council Pediatric Subcommittee, the following should be considered for transfer of burn patients.

Pediatric patient with burn injuries should be transferred to a Burn Center per the following burn criteria: American Burn Association Transfer Criteria: A burn center may treat adults, children, or both. Burn injuries that should be referred to a burn center include the following:

  1. Partial-thickness burns of greater than 10 percent of the total body surface area;
  2. Burns that involve the face, hands, feet, genitalia, perineum, or major joints;
  3. Third-degree burns in any age group;
  4. Electrical burns, including lightning injury;
  5. Chemical burns;
  6. Inhalation injury;
  7. Burn injury in patients with preexisting medical disorders that could complicate management, prolong recovery, or affect mortality;
  8. Burns and concomitant trauma (such as fractures) when the burn injury poses the greatest risk of morbidity or mortality. If the trauma poses the greater immediate risk, the patient’s condition may be stabilized initially in a trauma center before transfer to a burn center;
  9. Physician judgment will be necessary in such situations and should be in concert with the regional medical control plan and triage protocols; and
  10. Burn injury in patients who will require special social, emotional, or rehabilitative intervention.

Burns in children

Children with burns should be transferred to a burn center verified to treat children. In the absence of a regional pediatric burn center, an adult burn center may serve as a second option for the management of pediatric burns.

Other criteria for transfer:

  1. Children requiring pediatric intensive care other than for close observation
  2. Any child who may benefit from consultation with, or transfer to, a Pediatric Trauma Center or a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
  3. Children with injuries suspicious of child maltreatment e.g. inflicted burn injury

Reference: Resources for the Optimal Care of the Injured Patient: 2014

The American Burn Association has fully verified the following burn centers in Texas:

  • Parkland Memorial Hospital’s Regional Burn Center in Dallas;
  • US Army Institute of Surgical Research Adult Burn Center;
  • Shriners Hospitals for ChildrenGalveston Pediatric Burn Center;
  • University of Texas Medical Branch Blocker Burn Center/Adult Burn Center in Galveston;
  • The Memorial Hermann Medical Center in Houston; and
  • The University Medical Center in Lubbock.

Finally, make sure that all of your children have been taught the safety tip “Stop, Cover, Drop, and Roll” response if their clothes ever catch on fire. You can find online posters indicating how to demonstrate this to your children once they’re old enough to understand. It’s never too early to try and teach this – once your children are up and moving about on their own.

Hopefully your child will never suffer a serious burn injury. If your child does suffer a serious burn injury which you believe may have been caused by a dangerous product or unsafe actions by a third party, please call me if you would like to discuss what legal rights and remedies that you and your child may have.

I have over thirty years of experience in representing children and adults who have been injured or harmed as a result of dangerous products or conduct. There is never a charge for the initial consultation and it is completely confidential. I can be reached at 817-870-2102 or via email at jhart@hartlaw.com.

Online article sources include: The Centers for Disease Control; SafeKids.org; the American Burn Association; University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)/National Library of Medicine (NLM)/National Institutes of Health (NIH) –“Children with Burn Injuries -Assessment of Trauma, Neglect, Violence and Abuse”; Consideration for Pediatric Consultation and Transfer drafted by a work team of the Governor’s EMS and Trauma Advisory Council Pediatric Subcommittee.

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