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Topical Treatment of Pediatric Patients with Burns

A Practical Guide

  • Therapy in Practice
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American Journal of Clinical Dermatology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Over 440 000 children receive medical attention for burn injuries each year in the US. Burn wound infections are a major source of morbidity and mortality in these patients. Infected wounds not only heal more slowly, but also may lead to systemic infections. The factors that contribute to wound complications are both the size and depth of the wound.

Burn depth is usually categorized into first-degree (superficial, involving only the epidermis), second-degree (partial thickness, involving both epidermis and dermis), and third-degree (full thickness, through the epidermis, dermis, and into fat). Burns that will not heal within 2 weeks are at least second-degree and should generally be referred to a burn surgeon for possible excision and grafting, due to the increased risk of infection and scarring.

The burn wound is dynamic. Proper treatment minimizes the extent of the burn injury, whereas improper treatment (lack of proper wound-care, edema formation, lack of resuscitation) may actually increase the size and/or depth of the wound. Topical antimicrobial agents have been shown to decrease wound-related infections and morbidity in burn wounds when used appropriately. The goal of topical antimicrobial therapy is to control microbial colonization, thus preventing development of invasive infections. A wide variety of agents are available for treatment of burn wounds, including ointments, creams, biological and nonbiological dressings. Topical antimicrobials of choice include bacitracin, neomycin, silver sulfadiazine and mafenide.

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Correspondence to Tina L. Palmieri.

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Palmieri, T.L., Greenhalgh, D.G. Topical Treatment of Pediatric Patients with Burns. Am J Clin Dermatol 3, 529–534 (2002).

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