The American Burn Association has stated that one civilian fire death occurs every 2 and a half hours in the United States. In order to exercise burn prevention measures, it’s important to know: Where do most burn injuries occur? And which groups are most likely to suffer burn injuries? It may be surprising to learn that most burn injuries happen at home. And, sadly, children are often most affected by accidental burn injuries.
There is good news when it comes to the statistics of burn injuries. In this article we will discuss improvements that have already been made, and how we can continue to decrease the prevalence of burn injuries and deaths through public awareness, burn injury law, and the implementation of safety measures.
First, let’s look at the most common types of burn injuries and why they often happen at home.
Types of Burn Injuries
The Cleveland Clinic defines a burn injury as a type of injury that happens when heat, chemicals, sunlight, electricity, or radiation damages skin tissue. Almost all burn injuries are entirely preventable. It’s estimated that as high as over 90% of burn injuries happen accidentally.
Nearly half a million people seek medical attention for burns in the U.S. each year. The most frequent causes of burn injuries include the following types of accidents:
- Exposure to flames
- Contact with a hot object
- Scalding (burns from hot liquids)
- Car, truck, motorcycle, and other vehicle accidents
- Chemical exposure
- Accident involving electricity
- Overexposure to sunlight
Exposure to flames, scalding, and contact with hot objects comprise the majority of accidents that result in hospitalization. Let’s look more closely at the types of situations at home which can lead to accidental burn injuries.
Burns in the Home
The percentage of all burn injuries that occur in the home is high—nearly three-quarters of accidental burn injuries. Studies conducted by the American Burn Association (ABA) determined that 73% of people admitted to burn centers for treatment were injured at home. Listed behind burns in the home were accidents on the job (8%), street or highway incidents (5%), and burns which occurred while engaging in a recreational activity (5%). Drugs, alcohol, inattention, and high-risk activities are often a factor in accidental burn incidents.
Children are at especially high risk for accidental burns. For children under the age of 14, accidental injury is a leading cause of death. Approximately 3,500 children and adults suffer accidental death each year from burns and fires.
Regrettably, children are also often involved in causing the accidents which lead to burn injuries. It is especially important to educate children of the hazards of the following problems which frequently lead to fires and burns in the home:
- Using matches or lighters irresponsibly
- Untended trash fires, campfires, barbecue pits, and fireplaces
- Pots of boiling water knocked over
- Bathtub scalds when children are not supervised
- Playing irresponsibly with fireworks and firecrackers
- Leaving dangerous chemicals around the house
- Ovens and stovetops left on while not in use
- Unattended cooking
- Hot drinks, soups, and other near-boiling liquids left out
- Poor-fitting light coverings and shades
- Papers and other flammable objects left near heat sources (lightbulbs, heaters, etc.)
- Damaged appliances in use
- Faulty heating or electric units and systems
Which Group Is Most Likely to Suffer Burn Injuries?
According to American Burn Association research, the following facts were determined about the groups of people most affected by burn injuries:
- Men are more likely to sustain burn injuries than women.
- Young adults 20-29 have a higher incidence of burn injury than the general adult population.
- Almost one-quarter of all burn injuries happen to children under 15.
- Male children are more likely to engage in activities high-risk for burns and scalding.
- Children under five are more than twice as likely than the general population to suffer burn injuries that require emergency medical treatment.
- Children, the elderly, and disabled people are most vulnerable to burn injuries.
- Burn injury is the 8th leading cause of death for people 65 and older.
- Burn injury is the 5th leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old.
- Burn injury is the 3rd leading cause of death for children 5 to 9 years old.
Ways Burn Safety at Home Has Improved
Fortunately, our nation has seen improvements in burn safety and prevention over the past 30 years. Part of this is thanks to groups—like the American Burn Association, the National Fire Protection Association, the U.S. Fire Administration, and the University of Kentucky’s Residential Fire Injury Prevention Program—which have increased awareness of the dangers of burn accidents.
Stanford Children’s Health at Stanford University has published information on some of the reasons that there has been a national decrease in burn injuries over the past 30 years. These reasons include:
- A decrease in the number of people who smoke
- Improved technology and increased usage of in-home smoke detectors
- Better workplace safety regulations
- Fewer open flames in the home (candles, lamps, lanterns, stoves, fireplaces, etc.)
- Home water heaters designed to prevent scalding
- Increased public awareness of the danger of burn injuries and how to prevent them
These improvements are encouraging. But we still have a long way to go. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that we lose 180,000 individuals each year to preventable burn injuries. It is disheartening to know that the vast majority of these deaths occur in low- to middle-income homes.
Tips to Prevent Burns from Fires and Scalding in the Home
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is: How can burn injuries be prevented? Knowing that most burn and scald injuries occur in the home gives us more incentive to exercise vigilance when it comes to at-home fire safety and prevention. There are many ways you can make burn and scald prevention a part of your daily life at home. The following home safety tips can help prevent burns from fires and scalding:
- Install smoke alarms on every floor and in or near every bedroom. Check batteries monthly.
- Be careful when using stoves, ovens, and microwaves. Supervise children closely.
- Monitor home water temperatures. The CDC advises setting your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- Keep an emergency ladder on upper floors of the house.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of oven fires.
- Always turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so children can’t reach them.
- Unplug kitchen appliances when not in use.
- Check bath temperatures before allowing children to touch the water.
- Get rid of any appliances that have frayed or damaged cords.
- Don’t overload electrical outlets.
- Clean dryer vents often to prevent lint build-up which can catch fire.
- Make sure every member of the household memorizes a fire escape plan.
- Educate children continually about best practices for fire and burn prevention at home.
At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, PLLC, burn injury prevention is extremely important to us. Practicing for many years as a Lexington burn injury lawyer, it has become evident how preventable these terrible injuries truly are. For questions about burn injury law, how to prevent burn injuries, and what to do if you have been injured in a preventable burn accident, reach out to our office for a free consultation.