Reaching out to young burns patients

Young burns patient Shervanno Reibero pictured here with Dr Roux Martinez at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town

The South African Advanced Wound Management team of Smith & Nephew hosted a community service initiative at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital on 29 May 2013 to assist in providing a much needed distraction from the intense pain that burn victims experience.  

Red Cross Outreach to children with burns  

During their stay in hospital, children recovering from burns often feel shock, bewilderment, fear and intense pain.  

Research has shown that for a young child, the hospital experience in itself is scary with ward equipment like drips and catheters as well as doctors with their gowns and masks.

This is why it is important to create a warm friendly environment where children feel comfortable, like it’s a home away from home. 


Above:  Little Romano van Niekerk is pictured here with one of  the new bikes that were given to the ward by Smith & Nephew's 'wound angels'. With him is Smith & Nephew Sales Representative Tania Bisset.  

Judy Horne, MD Smith & Nephew Africa Region said: 

“By providing bright, cheerful murals in the burn unit and plastic bikes to the victims, the children’s attention can be taken away from the intense pain they are experiencing and for those few moments they can absorb themselves in fun and play." 

The vision of Smith and Nephew is to help reduce the stress and trauma a child faces when suffering from a burn injury.

Professor Heinz Rode Senior Specialist, Department of Paediatric Surgery Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, says that in South Africa, eighteen per cent of hospital admissions are due to burns, with a mortality of 6 to 10%. Prof Rode has been a paediatric surgeon for over 32 years and is recognized throughout the world as a leading paediatric burns specialist. 

The question is often asked, “Why are burns so common in the developing world?” Rode says that there is overwhelming evidence that childhood burns are largely environmentally conditioned and preventable. The high incidence is driven by negative impact factors including influx of people to urban areas, haphazard urban development, inadequate electrification of homes, paraffin used as a primary energy source, and failure of preventative programmes.

In low income households, kerosene constitutes 56% of the energy source and 21 million households in South Africa use kerosene as a daily energy source. It is estimated that there are approximately 45,000 paraffin-related fires annually and 3000 deaths. This is predominantly due to the use of faulty kerosene appliances, contaminated fuel, under regulated supply chains, and violation of standard safety principles.

Burn management is further complicated by family traditions and beliefs and traditional treatment methods. Many still use, as initial therapy, traditional methods including oils, butter, gentian violet, eggs, and milk.

Rode, who has treated over 80 000 burn victims over the course of his career, says that patients with burn injuries have long term psychological consequences.  

"Burn injuries result in significant physical and psychological complications that require comprehensive rehabilitation.”

When a child is admitted to hospital with burns, they are suddenly separated from their familiar environment and placed in a strange, frightening place.
Burn care involves repeated painful procedures for dressing and skin grafting. It is difficult for children to understand that the person who is supposed to make things better, is hurting them in the process. Healing by inflicting pain becomes a conflict for the burns team who have to perform painful procedures daily on the child. 

Historically, burns were treated with daily wound dressings and wound irrigation, the removal of loose dead tissue, and application of daily topical wound dressings and antimicrobial preparations, until the wounds healed by themselves, or granulation tissue appeared in the wound bed. Conventional Therapy makes use of silver sulfadiazine and tulle gras daily dressings.

However, the advance in technology in burn wound care has seen the introduction of nanocrystalline silver antimicrobial barrier dressing. The nanocrystalline silver reduces the risk of bacterial colonisation and acts to kill micro-organisms that can cause infection and prevent or delay healing. This reduces the amount of costly antibiotics required to stave off bacterial infections. The development of new technologies for burns management reduces time to healing. For the children, this means a shorter stay in hospital and a faster transition back into their normal environments.


Lesley Schroeder-McLean:Fuller Insight
Communication Consultants to Smith & Nephew, Africa Region
T: +27 (0)21 7888 345 | M: +27 (0)83652 1164 |

Smith and Nephew is at the forefront of developing advanced technology used in the treatment of burn wounds. In addition the company plays a leading role in educating surgeons from all over the continent and other developing countries in burns management. 

The Smith and Nephew portfolio of burn management products include Biobrane, which  is a temporary biosynthetic skin substitute and Acticoat™ which is a nanocrystalline silver antimicrobial barrier dressing. The nanocrystalline silver reduces the risk of bacterial colonisation and acts to kill micro-organisms that can cause infection and prevent or delay healing. 


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