What are the Leading Causes of Burn Injuries?

October 19, 2017

With news of deadly Northern California wildfires, citizens are rightfully frightened about the chances of burn injuries. The majority of burn injuries, however, occur right at home, on a normal day. You encounter potential burn risks in your daily life, while you cook or perform tasks at work. Being aware of the leading causes of burn injuries can help you stay safe, with or without the risk of wildfires. Here are the five most common causes.

#1. Fires and Flames

Contact with fire or flames is the most obvious cause of burn injuries, as well as the most common. About 44% of all burn center admissions result from fires or flames. Thermal burns from contact with fire can cause burns of the first degree all the way to third-degree burns with major deep-tissue damage and permanent scarring. Keep your home safe from fires as much as possible by checking smoke detectors regularly. Hire a professional electrician before turning on little-used appliances such as space heaters, and engage in routine electrical maintenance to help prevent house fires.

#2. Hot Liquids

Contact with hot liquids and steams are the second most common cause of burns, or scalds. About 33% of all burn center patient admissions come from scalds from moist heat. Scalding is the most common type of burn injury in children under the age of four. Spilling hot food or drinks account for half of all scalds. Always cook with hot liquids carefully, using a splashguard to prevent hot oils from popping or jumping from the pan. Keep children out of the kitchen while cooking, and always double check the temperatures of bath water, bottles, and food.

#3. Hot Objects

Contact with objects that are too hot to touch account for 9% of admissions to burn centers throughout the U.S. It can be easy to misjudge the temperature of an object such as a hotplate, iron, stove, or heater. Be extra cautious around items that may heat up when in use, and always use proper safety gear such as an oven mitt while cooking. Employers must always equip employees with proper safety gear when working with hot objects or equipment.

#4. Electrical Components

About 4% of patients admitted to burn centers suffer from electrical burns. Electrical burns occur when electricity passes through the body and causes injury. It can happen from a lightning strike or contact with a live electrical components, such as power lines or electrical circuits. Electrical burns can damage the tissues as well as cause shock to the brain, heart, and other organs. Only handle electrical components with proper training and equipment.

#5. Hazardous Chemicals

About 3% of all burn center admissions stem from dangerous chemicals. When harsh chemicals, such as acids, touch the skin, it can cause serious damage to the outer tissues as well as the internal body. Chemicals burns can occur from contact or from ingesting the substance. Car battery acid, bleach and ammonia, and many chemicals in the workplace can all cause burns. Infants, the elderly, and the disabled are most at risk of chemical burns, as they may not be able to handle substances properly. Prevent chemical burns by keeping chemicals out of reach of children, or avoiding harsh chemicals altogether.