Aromatherapy massage seems to enhance relaxation in children with burns, according to a pilot study conducted by investigators in South Africa.

The setting was a 17-bed level-one burn unit in Cape Town, South Africa, according to an abstract published on

Between January and October 2009, heart rates and respiratory rates of patients who underwent aromatherapy massage sessions were read before and after the sessions.

“Primary outcomes were decline in heart rates and respiratory rates, a sign of relaxation,” the abstract noted. Behavioral responses, including sleep/awake state, facial expression and body posture, were documented as secondary outcomes.

A convenience sample of 71 pediatric burn patients with a median age of 3 years underwent a total of 126 massage sessions, according to the abstract. Among the results:

• Mean heart rate decreased significantly

• Mean respiratory rate decreased significantly

• Most massage sessions (92.8 percent) elicited positive behavior to the massage, such as the child falling asleep, calming down or asking for the massage to continue.

Nine patients (7.2 percent) with a median age of 15 months who underwent a single massage session did not show positive behavior but cried, wriggled or were distressed, according to the abstract.

“Aromatherapy massage seems to be a helpful nonpharmacological approach to reduce hospitalized pediatric burn patients’ distress,” the investigators noted. “Future studies with better research designs and validated outcome measures should confirm our findings.”

The study was conducted in the Burn Unit, Department of Pediatric Surgery, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa. Results were published in the journal Burns, published by Elsevier.

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