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Statistics on Burn Injuries

Burns are an unfortunate part of life.  A death injury from burns occurs every three hours in the US amounting to about 1.5 deaths from fire or burn injuries per 100,000 population or about 2.1 percent out of all fatal injuries in this country.  Most deaths are due to residential fires with an increased risk in young children, the geriatric population, those living in rural homes and those living in poverty.  Many burn injuries are catastrophic.

Nonfatal injuries are extremely common but hard to quantify.  It is estimated that there are about 9 out of every 100 population per year in the US with other governing bodies showing a much lower 1.3 percent rate among US citizens. 
In burn statistics, burn injuries are divided into:
  • Overall fire and burns
  • Fire and flame burns
  • Scald burns
  • Contact burns
  • Electrical burns
  • Chemical burns
Higher deaths occur with fires/flames than with contact with hot objects as well as with unintentional and violence related fires.  Women have a lesser incidence of getting burned but have a greater rate of overall death from burns.  There have been no significant changes in the statistics of burns in the last few decades with the exception of fewer male deaths.  The mean age of all treated burns in burn units is 32 years with 70 percent of them being males.
In one study by the National Burn Repository that listed burn statistics in the US from 2001-2010, 18 percent of burns occurred in the age group of 5 years and under while 12 percent occurred in those over the age of 60.  A total of 1.4 percent were suspected cases of abuse or assault and 1 percent were self-inflicted.  Less than a half percent were labelled arson.

Scald and fire flame injuries are most common and occur mostly in the home.  Scalds are most common in children under the age of five.  Electrical burns occur most often in industrial sites (43 percent) with 27 percent associated with the home.

Ninety percent of all burns are relatively minor and associated with burns involving less than 20 percent of the total body surface area.  Inhalation injuries are associated with 6.3 percent of burns, many requiring mechanical ventilation.  The average length of stay at a burn unit is 9-10 days—in effect, 9.6 days for survivors and 17.7 days for fatalities.  The cost of caring for burns is large: an average of $69 thousand dollars for survivors and $212 thousand dollars for non-survivors. This makes for a total US burn care cost of $75 billion, including the loss of productivity burn patients experience. 

The major risk factors for burns includes winter months, a lack of smoke alarms, substandard housing, unattended heating devices, careless smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and playing with matches especially in male children.
Let’s take a look at the high risk populations:
  • Children.  This is especially true of children from Asian countries.  In the US, two children die of burn-related injuries each day.  Children under the age of five have almost all of the scald deaths in America.  This almost always happens from hot coffee or other hot foods and bathroom burns in the tub.  In kitchen injuries, the burns are often on the neck and head from scalding foods falling from a high surface. Other causes of burns include hair curlers, curling irons, room heaters, ovens, stoves, irons, gasoline and fireworks.  Electrical cords and extension cords make up a small number of these burns as well as burns from moving treadmills, exhaust pipes and barbecues.
  • The Elderly.  The elderly suffer from burns which increase as people age.  They have an even higher risk of burns than children.  Of these types of burns, 20 percent happen by scalds, 6 percent by electrical means, 2 percent are electrical and 6 percent are miscellaneous types of burns.  The majority suffers from some type of mobility or judgment issue or victims are impaired by drugs and alcohol.  Of 80 year olds, 32 percent are burned by scald injuries.  Thirty percent are burned by flames, 29 percent by contact burns and 7 percent by bath immersion injuries.  Seniors had twice the length of hospital stay with an extent of burn as depicted by the American Burn Association’s Burn Registry being about 9 percent.  Inhalation injuries affected 11 percent.  In one study, a group of elderly burn patients died at a rate of 8 percent.
  • The  disabled.  Due to the lack of mobility issues, the disabled are at higher risk of burn injuries.  They generally suffer from scalding burns at home and have hospital stays that last on average of 27 days.
  • Military personnel.  The extent of burns depends largely on the types of weapons used.  Burns are more common at sea.  In the Falkland Islands skirmish of 1982, 34 percent of all injuries on British naval ships were burns.  In recent years, more and better flame retardant garments and better fire extinguishing systems have reduced the number of burn injuries among this group of people. 

A serious burn is a catastrophe. Anyone who has a serious burn thru the negligence of another should contact an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer.

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