Burn injuries in children continue to be a major public health problem responsible for significant morbidity and mortality at Bugando Medical Centre. In agreement with other studies [5–7, 16, 17], the majority of patients in this study were aged 2 years and below. High incidence of burn injuries in children reflects lack of coordination and unawareness of dangerous substances in this age group. In addition, poor supervision because of large families and lack of domestic safety measures play important role in occurrence of burn.
In our study, males were slightly more affected than females with a male to female ratio of 1.4:1 which is in agreement with other studies [6, 7, 18]. The reasons for the male preponderance in our study may be attributed to the overactive nature of male babies as compared to the females.
The presence of pre-existing illness has an impact on the outcome of burn injury . In agreement with other studies [19, 20], epilepsy was found to be the most common pre-existing illness in this study making these patients a special group which needs special care. In most cases epileptic patients sustain burn injury during epileptic attack. Therefore care must be taken to prevent them from burn injury.
In this study, intentional burn injuries mainly due to child abuse were reported in only 2.9% of cases. These figures were significantly low compared to what was reported in Uganda (16%) by Nakitto & Lett . In comparison with accidentally burned children, abused children are significantly younger and have longer hospital stays and higher mortality rates . The low figures of intentional burn injuries in our study may actually be an underestimate and the magnitude of the problem may not be apparent because many cases are not reported for fear of been arrested by police. Therefore, paediatric forensic examination should be performed if a child is likely to suffer from abuse, neglect or intentional injury.
The majority of burn injury in this study occurred at home mainly in the kitchen, which is in agreement with other studies done elsewhere [23–25]. The home remains a dangerous place for children as lack of enough space for children to play, during cooking and, storage of the hot fluids e.g. tea, porridge and water with uncovered containers in the single room may result in burn injury of the children who can easily reach the hot stuff.
In this review, scald was the main type of burn among children that agrees with other studies [19, 26, 27]. This may be related to densely populated families, physical environment of houses, child neglect, and child's inclination for touching things. In the present study, patients who sustained scald had significant shorter LOS and low mortality rate than those who had other types of burn. This can be explained by the fact that scald injury causes superficial burns which heal fast with no surgical intervention and therefore these patients have short hospital stay and low mortality rate compared to patients with deep or mixed.
First aid measures at the site of accident play a vital role in determining the final outcome of treatment when done appropriately. It contributes significantly to reducing morbidity and mortality. In this study, appropriate first aid measures at the site of accident were reported in only 6.4% of our patients. Similar low incidence of appropriate first aid measures among burned patients were noted in other studies [7, 28]. However, Ramcharan et al.  in North Trinidad reported a high figure (65.1%) of patients performed first aid adequately at the site of accident. This discrepancy may be attributed to difference in public awareness and knowledge about first aid procedures for burns from one country to another. There was significant association between proper first aid information and parents education and the place of residence (Urban and rural). Although first aid measures at the site of accident did not significantly influence both length of hospital stay and mortality, we still believe that they play a vital role in determining the final outcome of treatment when done appropriately.
The prehospital care of burned patients is the most important factor in determining the ultimate outcome after burn injury . In our study, only 6.7% of patients had pre-hospital care. The lack of advanced pre-hospital care in most developing countries like Tanzania and ineffective ambulance system for transportation of patients to hospitals are a major challenges in providing care for burn injury patients in these countries and have contributed significantly to poor outcome of these patients due to delay in definitive treatment.
Late presentation is the norm for most clinical conditions in our environment and burn injury is no exception. In this study, most patients (89.8%) presented late to the hospital with only 10.2% patients presenting within 24 h of burn. Late presentation in the present study may be attributed to delay in referral from private and public clinics, dispensaries and health centers, self-treatment at home, consultation with traditional healers and transport costs. Delayed presentation following burn injury increases the likelihood of death as well as prolonged hospital stay as the child may only be brought to hospital once the wound has become infected. Delay also results in deeper wounds and increased healing time.
The body region distribution trend in this study is consistence with other reports [20, 31, 32]. Although body region burn burned did not significantly influence both length of hospital stay and mortality, the authors still believe that body region burn burned has an influence on the outcome of burn care as it may result in functional or cosmetic impairment.
In this study, the vast majority of patients had TBSA burn of less than 40% which is in keeping with other reports [32–34]. The ultimate outcome of burn injury is influenced by the extent of burn (%TBSA) as shown by the present study.
Our bacterial profile trend was similar to that reported by others [20, 31]. In Zaria, Nigeria it was found that Pseudomonas aeruginosa was the commonest isolated bacteria . This difference in bacterial pattern reflects environmental differences in study setting. However, variations in antibiotics, tropical antimicrobial agents and dressing methods in the present study might have interfered with our results. The present study showed no significant difference between burn wound sepsis and the outcome of burn injury patients. Despite the above observations, the authors of the present study still believe that burn wound sepsis still contributes significantly to high morbidity and mortality among burn injury patients.
Our figures for HIV infection among paediatric burn injury patients (2.3%) in the present study was found to be significantly low than that reported in Malawi (5.8%) at the same age group reflecting differences in the overall prevalence of HIV infection in general population from one country to another . HIV infection in children in these studies is most likely to be caused by vertical transmission or by blood transfusion for malaria-related anemia. Our study showed no significant difference in the outcome of HIV positive burn injury patients without stigmata of AIDS or those with CD4 count > 200 cells//¿L and HIV negative burn injury patients in terms of length of hospital stay and mortality. Similar observation was also noted in South Africa . This implies that the prognosis of HIV positive burn injury patients depends mainly on the presence or absence of stigmata of AIDS and not on the presence of HIV antibodies.
Most of patients in this study were managed conservatively. Surgical treatment mainly skin grafting was performed in 12.9% of patients though more patients could have benefited from surgery. Similar observation was also reported by previous studies in Uganda [20, 31] and North Trinidad . There was no obvious explanation for the low incidence of surgical procedures in these series. Early excision and skin grafting in the management of deep burns have been reported to reduce infective complications, reduce mortality, shorten hospital stay and improve functional and aesthetic outcome . In this study early excision and skin grafting was not usually practiced due to the fact that the majority of patients reported to the hospital late when they had already developed severe burn wound sepsis which needed dressing for a number of days before skin grafting. Lack of facilities and specialized professionals can also explain the low incidence of early excision and skin grafting in this study.
The overall mean LOS in this study was relatively higher compared to that reported in Saudi Arabia , but lower than in the Turkish study . High figures for the LOS in our study is attributed to delayed presentation to health facilities following burn injury as a result the majority of patients reported to the hospital late when they had already developed severe burn wound sepsis which needed dressing for a number of days. Burn patients generally experience long hospital stays, and the accurate prediction of the length of those stays has strong implications for healthcare resource management and service delivery. Therefore, burns in childhood cause huge financial and social burdens on individuals, families, society and the nation. To reduce this burden, a burn prevention strategy and prevention program for the country should be developed.
The overall mortality figure (11.7%) in our study is closer to that reported in Uganda . High mortality rate in the present study may be attributed to several factors. First, BMC being a referral hospital, it receives many patients with large burns that are at high risk of death despite aggressive treatment. Second, Bugando Medical Centre has no burn unit as a result majority of patients are still admitted and managed in general surgical wards which are not well equipped in managing burn injury patients. Third, early excision and skin grafting in the management of burn is not adopted at Bugando Medical Centre.
The potential limitations in this study is that it only reports on children admitted for burns to one major tertiary hospital may not be truly representative for the general population. Also, nutritional status which is a known factor influencing the outcome of burn injury patients was not measured due to failure to get pre-burn weight which would be used to measure body mass index and weight for age. Variations in antibiotics, topical antimicrobial agents and dressing methods might have affected the results.