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.

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 2018–19, thermal causes resulted in:

5,900 hospitalisations

23 per 100,000 population

99 deaths

0.4 per 100,000 population

This represents 1.1% of injury hospitalisations and 0.7% of injury deaths.

Bushfire injuries fall in this category. Data from the 2019–20 bushfire season will be included in the next update.

This page summarises data on unintentional thermal injuries. Intentional injuries and deaths are included under Assault and homicide or Self-harm and suicide.

Types of thermal injury that lead to hospitalisation

In 2018–19:

  • 3 in 5 hospitalisations due to thermal causes (62%) were from contact with heat and hot substances
  • 2 in 5 hospitalisations due to thermal causes (38%) were from exposure to fire, smoke and flames (Table 1).
Table 1: Most common thermal causes of injury hospitalisation, 2018–19
Cause Number % Rate (per 100,000)
Contact with heat and hot substances (X10–19)      
Contact with hot drinks, food, fats and cooking oils (X10) 1,215 21 4.8
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) 1,130 19 4.5
Other or unspecified (X13–19) 1,270 22 5.0
Exposure to fire, smoke and flames (X00–09)      
Exposure to a controlled or uncontrolled fire (X00–03) 970 17 3.9
Other or unspecified (X04–09) 1,285 22 5.1
Total 5,870 100 23.3

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 detail, see Data tables B13–14.

Trends over time

The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to thermal causes in 2018–19 was 0.7% lower than a year earlier. Over the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17 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).

For deaths due to thermal causes, there was an average annual decrease in rate between 2009–10 and 2018–19 of 2.1% (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Thermal injury hospitalisations and deaths, by sex, 2009–10 to 2018–19

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 20098–10 to 2018–19 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 E1–4.

Variation by age and sex

Rates of thermal injury hospitalisation and death differ for males and females, especially for certain age groups.

From thermal injuries in 2018–19:

  • almost two thirds of hospitalisations (63%) were for males
  • over two thirds deaths (68%) were for males
  • the age-standardised rates of hospitalisation were 30 per 100,000 males and 18 per 100,000 females
  • the age-standardised rates of death were 0.5 per 100,000 males and 0.2 per 100,000 females
  • children aged under 5 had the highest rate of hospitalisation per 100,000 population (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Thermal injury hospitalisations and deaths, by age group and sex, 2018–19

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.

Severity of hospitalised injuries

There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury could be assessed. Using the available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:

  • number of days in hospital
  • time in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • time on a ventilator.

The average number of days in hospital for thermal injuries was longer than 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.

Table 2: Severity of thermal injury hospitalisations, 2018–19

 

Thermal injuries

All injuries

Average number of days in hospital

5.1

4.1

% of cases with time in an ICU

2.7

2.5

% of cases involving continuous ventilatory support

1.6

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.

For more detail, see Data tables A12–13.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2018–19, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were 523 hospitalisations (Table 3) and under 5 deaths due to thermal causes
  • males were 1.8 times as likely as females to be hospitalised due to thermal causes (age-standardised)
  • thermal injury hospitalisation rates were highest in the 0–4 age group (Figure 3).
Table 3: Number and rate of thermal injury hospitalisations by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

330

193

523

Rate (per 100,000)

79

46

62

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Indigenous and other Australians

In 2018–19, Indigenous Australians were 2.8 times as likely as other Australians to be hospitalised due to a thermal injury (Table 4). Deaths are not compared due to the small number.

Table 4: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of thermal injury hospitalisations, by Indigenous status and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

81

45

62

Other Australians

28

17

22

Notes:
1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
2. 'Other Australians’ includes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The age-specific rate of injury hospitalisations due to thermal causes was highest among the 0–4 age group for both Indigenous and other Australians (Figure 3). Deaths are not presented because of the small number.

Figure 3: Thermal injury hospitalisations by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2018–19

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent data for Indigenous and other 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.

Remoteness

In 2018–19, people living in Very remote areas were 4.3 times as likely as people living in Major cities to be hospitalised by a thermal injury (Table 5).

Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Table 5: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of thermal injury hospitalisations, by remoteness and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

22

15

18

Inner regional

37

20

28

Outer regional

63

29

46

Remote

93

37

66

Very remote

102

53

78

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

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

In 2018–19, 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 hospitalisations by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2018–19

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.

More information

Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted

Technical notes: read about how the data were calculated.

Data tables: download full data tables.

Glossary