Thermal injuries 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.

In 2017–18, 1.1% of hospitalised injury cases and 0.8% of injury deaths were due to burns and other thermal causes.

Contact with hot drinks, food, fats and cooking oils was the most common cause of thermal injuries. Children under 5 years of age and males were the most at risk of serious injury due to thermal causes.

In 2017–18, thermal injuries resulted in:

5,853 hospitalisation cases

24 per 100,000 population

98 deaths

0.4 per 100,000 population

This report only includes data on injuries that result in hospital admission or death. If a person dies from an injury after being admitted to hospital, both the hospitalisation and the death is included in this report. For more information, see Defining injury hospitalisation cases and injury deaths.

Which types of thermal injuries resulted in hospitalisation?

In 2017–18:

  • 3 in 5 hospitalisations (60%) due to burns and other thermal causes were caused by contact with heat and hot substances
  • 2 in 5 hospitalisations (40%) due to burns and other thermal causes were caused by exposure to fire, smoke and flames (Table 1).
Table 1: Top causes of hospitalisation cases due to burns and other thermal causes, 2017–18
Cause Number % Rate (per 100,000)
Contact with heat and hot substances (X10–19)      
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) 1,126 19 4.5
Contact with hot drinks, food, fats and cooking oils (X10) 1,117 19 4.5
Other or unspecified (X13–19) 1,273 22 5.1
Exposure to fire, smoke and flames (X00–09)      
Exposure to a controlled or uncontrolled fire (X00–03) 975 17 3.9
Other or unspecified (X04–09) 1,362 23 5.5
Total 5,853 100 23.6

Notes:

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population, calculated using estimated resident population as at 31 December of the relevant year.
  2. Percentages may not equal total due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10-AM (10th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2017).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detailed data, see Data tables B11–12.

Trends over time

Since 2008–09, there has been a 1.5% annual average decrease in thermal injury hospitalisation rates to 2016–17. Annual average rate changes are calculated using modelled age-standardised rates (see Technical notes for more details).

Because of changes in data collection methods, hospitalisations data for 2017–18 should not be compared with those of previous years and are not included in Figure 1 (see Technical notes for more details). Death data for 2017–18 are comparable with rates for previous years.

Figure 1: Thermal injury hospitalisation cases and deaths, by age group and sex, 2008–09 to 2016–17 (hospitalisation cases) and 2008–09 to 2017–18 (deaths)

The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisation cases and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons from 2008–09 to 2016–17 for hospitalisation cases and to 2017–18 for deaths. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number, and can select by life-stage age group including all ages.

For more detailed data, see Data tables C1–4 and E1–4.

How do rates vary by age and sex?

Thermal injury hospitalisation and death rates differ for males and females, especially for certain age groups (Figure 2).

In 2017–18:

  • almost 2 in 3 (64%) thermal injury hospitalisations were for males (3,732 cases) and 36% were for females (2,121 cases)
  • over 2 in 3 (69%) thermal injury deaths were for males (68 deaths) and 31% were for females (30 deaths)
  • the age-standardised rates of thermal injury hospitalisations cases were 30 per 100,000 males and 17 per 100,000 females
  • the age-standardised rates of thermal injury deaths were 0.5 per 100,000 males and 0.2 per 100,000 females
  • children aged under 5 had the highest rate of thermal injury hospitalisations per 100,000 population, compared with other life-stage age groups.

Figure 2: Thermal injury hospitalisation cases and deaths, by age group and sex, 2017–18

The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisation cases 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 detailed data, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.

How severe are hospitalised injuries?

Three measures that may indicate the severity of a hospitalised injury are length of stay, percentage of cases with time in an intensive care unit (ICU), and percentage of cases involving continuous ventilator support (Table 2).

The average duration of a hospital stay for injuries due to thermal causes was the longest of any of the major types of injury, and the percentages of thermal cause cases that included time in an ICU and/or involved continuous ventilator support were higher than the average percentages for hospitalised injuries.

Table 2: Severity of thermal injury hospitalisation cases, 2017–18

 

Thermal injuries

All hospitalised injuries

Average number of days in hospital

4.9

3.3

% of cases with time in an ICU

2.9

2.4

% of cases involving continuous ventilator support

1.9

1.2

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.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2017–18, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were over 530 hospitalisations and 13 deaths due to burns and other thermal injuries (Tables 3 and 4)
  • males, compared with females, were 1.2 times as likely to be hospitalised due to thermal injury (Table 3)
  • thermal injury hospitalisation rates were highest in the 0–4 age group, compared with other life-stage age groups (Figure 3).
Table 3: Number and rate of thermal injury hospitalisation cases by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

294

241

535

Rate (per 100,000)

71.5

58.6

65.1

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 4: Number and rate of thermal injury deaths by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

6

7

13

Rate (per 100,000)

1.7

1.9

1.8

Notes:

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
  2. Deaths data only includes data for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

In 2017–18, Indigenous Australians were 2.7 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be hospitalised due to a thermal injury (Table 5).

Deaths data are not presented due to volatility of age-standardised rates based on a small number of cases.

Table 5: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of thermal injury hospitalisation cases by Indigenous status and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

68.1

55.3

61.3

Non-Indigenous Australians

29.0

15.6

22.3

Notes:

  1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
  2. Non-Indigenous Australians’ includes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.
  3. Deaths data only includes data for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database; AIHW National Mortality Database.

The age-specific rate of injury hospitalisation cases due to burns and other thermal causes was highest among the 0–4 life-stage age group for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 3). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 3: Thermal injury hospitalisation cases by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2017–18

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisation cases. 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 detailed data, see Data tables A4–A6 and D4–D8.

Remoteness

In 2017–18, people living in Very remote areas were 4.9 times as likely as people living in Major cities to be hospitalised by a thermal injury (Table 6).

Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Table 6: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of thermal injury hospitalisation cases by remoteness and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

23

14

19

Inner regional

37

18

28

Outer regional

58

26

42

Remote

90

46

69

Very remote

87

100

92

n.p. not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

In 2017–18, the age-specific rate for thermal injury hospitalisations by remoteness area was highest for children aged 0–4 living in Very remote areas (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Thermal injury hospitalisation cases by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2017–18

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisation cases. 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 detailed data, see Data tables A7–A9 and D9–D10.

For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see Technical notes.

More information

Technical notes—read about how the data were calculated.

Data tables—download full data tables.

Glossary

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