Treating the emotional effects of burns in children is just as important as healing the physical scars, according to new research from ECU.
Working with burn victims and their families at Princess Margaret Hospital, Lead Researcher Dr Sarah McGarry found the psychological impact of burns can persist well after the physical scars have healed.
In collaboration with burns specialist and Australian of the Year Fiona Wood, Dr McGarry investigated 63 parents of children who had suffered burns for the research.
“We found that one in five parents exhibited significant symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and one in four had above average levels of anxiety. These symptoms are at a level that will impact their daily functioning,” Dr McGarry said.
“As well as the distress involved with seeing their child injured, watching procedures such as dressing changes can be particularly traumatic for parents.”
Dr McGarry said keeping parents and children as informed as possible during the inpatient phase was one way to reduce their levels of stress. .
“The more informed parents were, the less powerless they felt.
Keeping parents informed has the potential to lower their levels of anxiety and stress as their children go through treatment.”
“We found that if parents were experiencing high levels of psychological distress it was more likely that their child were too. This further reinforces the need to provide effective supports for parents.”
Fiona Wood said it was an important area of research.
“While we have made great leaps in how we treat burns in recent years, this research shows how important it is for us to focus on the emotional damage burns can cause,” Dr Wood said.