Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Thermal causes, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 02 December 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Thermal causes. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/thermal-causes
Thermal causes. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 November 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/thermal-causes
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Thermal causes [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Dec. 2]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/thermal-causes
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Thermal causes, viewed 2 December 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/thermal-causes
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< causes of Injury
Thermal causes of injury include exposure to smoke, fire and flames as well as contact with hot substances and heat sources, such as hot food and drinks, and household appliances. Burns from bushfires fall in this category.
Children under 5, especially boys, are most at risk of serious thermal injury.
Thermal injuries resulted in:
6,000 hospitalisations in 2020–21
24 per 100,000 population
130 deaths in 2019–20
0.5 per 100,000 population
This represents 1.0% of injury hospitalisations and 1.0% of injury deaths.
This page summarises data on unintentional thermal injuries only. Intentional injuries and deaths are included under Assault and homicide or Self-harm and suicide.
Rate (per 100,000)
Contact with heat and hot substances (X10–19)
Contact with hot drinks, food, fats and cooking oils (X10)
Contact with hot fluids that are not hot drinks, food, fats and cooking oils (for example, water boiled on stove and hot tap water) (X11–12)
Other or unspecified (X13–19)
Exposure to fire, smoke and flames (X00–09)
Exposure to a controlled or uncontrolled fire (X00–03)
Other or unspecified (X04–09)
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.
For more detail, see Data tables B13–14.
Other or unspecified exposure to fire, smoke or flames (X04–09)
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.
For more detail, see Data tables B19–21.
Hospitalisations due to injuries from thermal causes are higher over the colder months.
The interactive display illustrates other seasonal differences in injury hospitalisations.
1. Admission counts have been standardised into two 15-day periods per month.
2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.
The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations for thermal injuries in 2020–21 was 0.9% lower than a year earlier.
Over the period from 2011–12 to 2017–18 there was an average annual decrease in hospitalisations from this cause of 1.4%. There is a break in the time series for hospitalisations between 2016–17 and 2017–18 due to a change in data collection methods (see the technical notes for details).
The average annual increase in rate of deaths from thermal injuries between 2010–11 and 2019–20 was 1.4% (Figure 2).
2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 tab for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females, and persons over 10 years. The reader can choose to display rate per 100,000 population or number.
For more detail, see Data tables C1–3 and F1–4.
Rates of hospitalisation and death from thermal injuries differ between males and females, especially for certain age groups.
Of hospitalisations for thermal injury in 2020–21:
Of deaths from thermal injuries in 2019–20:
Column graph representing sex within 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can choose to display either rate per 100,000 population or number, for either hospitalisations or deaths. The default displays rate of hospitalisations for males and females and the reader can also choose to display persons.
For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.
There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be measured. Some of the ways to measure the severity of hospitalised injuries are:
The average number of days in hospital for thermal injuries was higher than the average for all injuries, and the percentages of thermal cases that included time in an ICU and/or involved continuous ventilatory support were higher than for all injuries. The rate of in-hospital death was lower than the average.
Average number of days in hospital
% of cases with time in an ICU
% of cases involving continous ventilatory support
In-hospital deaths (per 1,000 cases)
Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes hospitalisations that are transfers from 1 hospital to another or transfers from 1 admitted care type to another within the same hospital, except where care involves rehabilitation procedures.
For more detail, see Data tables A13–15.
In 2020–21, the wrist and hand, and the leg and hip were the body parts most often identified as the main site of injury in hospitalisations for thermal injuries (Figure 4).
Hover over a body part for more information:
Outline of a person with labels for body parts related to hospitalisations.
In 2020–21, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
There were 11 deaths of Indigenous Australians from thermal injuries in 2019–20.
Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
In 2020–21, Indigenous Australians were 2.8 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be hospitalised due to a thermal injury (Table 4). Deaths are not compared here due to the small number of cases.
The age-specific rate of injury hospitalisations due to thermal causes was highest among the age group for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 5).
Column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can choose to display rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also choose to display data for persons, males, or females.
For more detail, see Data tables A4–A6 and D4–D8.
In 2020–21, people living in Very remote areas were 4.8 times as likely as people living in Major cities to be hospitalised for a thermal injury (Table 5).
Deaths data are not compared here because of small numbers.
Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
In 2020–21, when comparing remoteness areas, the rate of hospitalisation for thermal injuries was highest for children aged 0–4 living in Very remote areas (Figure 6).
Column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent data for each of the 5 remoteness categories by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can choose to display rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also choose to display data for persons, males, or females.
For more detail, see Data tables A7–A9 and D9–D10.
For information on how statistics are calculated by remoteness, see the technical notes.
Technical notes: how the data were calculated
Data tables: download the full tables
ACCD (Australian Consortium for Classification Development) 2019. The international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, Australian modification (ICD-10-AM), 11th ed. Tabular list of diseases and alphabetic index of diseases. Adelaide: Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), Lane Publishing.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2016. International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, tenth revision. Fifth ed. Geneva: WHO.
The following are recent publications that include information on thermal causes of injury. Search Reports for older publications.
Data update: Short-term health impacts of the 2019–20 Australian bushfires
Trends in hospitalised injury, Australia, 2007–08 to 2016–17
Trends in injury deaths, Australia, 1999–00 to 2016–17
Indigenous injury deaths, 2011–12 to 2015–16
Hospitalised injury and socioeconomic influence in Australia, 2015–16
Injury mortality and socioeconomic influence in Australia, 2015–16
Hospitalised burn injuries Australia, 2013–14
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