Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Thermal causes, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 06 July 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, 16 June 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 Jul. 6]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/thermal-causes
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Thermal causes, viewed 6 July 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/thermal-causes
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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 are in this category.
Contact with hot drinks, food, fats and cooking oils was the most common thermal cause of injury. Children under 5, especially boys, were most at risk of serious injury due to thermal causes.
In 2019–20, thermal causes resulted in:
24 per 100,000 population
0.5 per 100,000 population
This represents 1.1% of injury hospitalisations and 1.0% of injury deaths.
This page summarises data on unintentional thermal injuries. 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.
Hospital admissions due to thermal causes exhibit a seasonal pattern, peaking in winter while decreasing over the warmer months.
In March 2020 the first lockdowns and social distancing measures associated with COVID-19 interrupted the usual activity of Australians. The restrictions to movement and activity do not appear to have markedly impacted thermal injuries.
See the interactive COVID-19 display for data and further discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.
1. Months have been standardised to 31 days.
2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.
The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to thermal causes in 2019–20 was 1.9% higher than a year earlier.
Over the period from 2010–11 to 2017–18 there was an average annual decrease of 1.2%. 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 due to thermal causes between 2010–11 and 2019–20 was 1.4% (Figure 2).
The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons from 2010–11 to 2019–20 for hospitalisations and deaths. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number.
For more detail, see Data tables C1–7 and F1–4.
Rates of thermal injury hospitalisation and death differ for males and females, especially for certain age groups.
Among thermal injury cases in 2019–20:
The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The columns represent sex within 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display either age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The default displays males and females and the reader can also select 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. Using available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:
The average number of days in hospital for thermal injuries was longer than the average for all injuries, and the percentage of thermal cases that included time in an ICU and/or involved continuous ventilatory support were higher than for hospitalised injuries.
Average number of days in hospital
% of cases with time in an ICU
% of cases involving continuous ventilatory support
Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes admissions 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 A12–13.
In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians were 2.9 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be hospitalised due to a thermal injury (Table 4). Deaths are not presented here due to the small number.
The age-specific rate of injury hospitalisations due to thermal causes was highest among the 0–4 age group for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 4).
The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.
For more detail, see Data tables A4–A6 and D4–D8.
In 2019–20, people living in Very remote areas were 5.4 times as likely as people living in Major cities to be hospitalised for a thermal injury (Table 5).
Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.
Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
In 2019–20, the age-specific rate for thermal injury hospitalisations by remoteness area was highest for children aged 0–4 living in Very remote areas (Figure 5).
The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent data for each of the 5 remoteness categories by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.
For more detail, see Data tables A7–A9 and D9–D10.
For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see the Technical notes.
Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted
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 edn. Tabular list of diseases and alphabetic index of diseases. Adelaide: Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), Lane Publishing.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2011. International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, tenth revision. Fifth edition 2016. Geneva: WHO.
The following are recent publications that include information on thermal causes of injury. See Reports for any older publications that may exist.
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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