• Most of these burns are due to incidents involving open flames in the home or workplace. In the case of children, they are mainly caused by hot liquids.                                   
  • Men are the main victims up to the age of 65, at which point the percentage of female victims increases.
  • Hospital admissions due to burns dropped by 80% during lockdown.       
  • Researchers have studied more than 46,000 people who experienced burns between 2011 and 2017.                                                                                                                                                                               

Every year, more than 6,500 people – around 18 per day – visit A&E as a result of a burn. Of this total, 1,300 (around 20%) need to be admitted to hospital. Most of them are men from every age group (63%) apart from the over-65s, at which point the proportion is reversed and women are more likely to be affected. The main cause of hospital admittance for burns is open flames, resulting mainly from incidents in the home or the workplace. On average, burns are responsible for the deaths of 60 people per year, who usually die in hospital.

These are some of the conclusions of the report entitled Lesionados por quemaduras en España (Burn Victims in Spain), presented today by Fundación MAPFRE and the Spanish Association for Burns and Electric Injury (AEQUE). This research, the result of a painstaking study of a total of 46,325 burn victims, analyzes the type of hospital care received by these patients according to their age and gender, the number of fatalities, the causes of the burns and the total body surface area affected, and the figures for the surgical interventions performed in the last few years that were essential to save the lives of many of the victims.

A pioneering report

The report contains data provided by the Ministry of Health for the 2011-2017 period that had not been published previously, compiled for the first time by seven national Critical Burns Units at major hospitals such as the University Hospital of Vall d’Hebrón (Barcelona), the University Hospital of Juan Canalejo (A Coruña), the University Hospital of La Paz, the University Hospital of Getafe (Madrid), the University Hospital of Virgen del Rocío (Seville), the University Hospital of La Fe (Valencia) and the University Hospital of Miguel Servet (Zaragoza).

Men in the 30-50 age group

The total number of people treated in hospital A&E departments for burns during the period under study came to 46,325, resulting in 9,115 hospital admittances, consisting mainly of men between the ages of 30 and 50, with 2,361 (25.9% of the total admittances), compared to 11.6% of women. Meanwhile, the lowest number of hospital admittances was among the under-14 age group (1,050), which in the experts’ view is thanks to awareness-raising campaigns and education on risk prevention both in the home and at school.

Fatalities

The total number of fatalities during this seven-year period was 414, around 59 people per year, which corresponds to 4.4% of the total hospital admittances for burns.

Hot liquids and frying pan accidents

In adults, the most common cause of burns is open flames (53.1%), causing injuries to 16% of the body. Other causes include electrical burns, the inappropriate use of chemical products, and contact with hot surfaces. In minors, the main reason is scalding, mainly from hot liquids, which accounts for seven out of every ten children affected (68%), the average age being 2.8 years old.

An average of 13 days in hospital

On average, patients admitted for severe burns experience one surgical intervention and a hospital stay of around 13 days. According to the report, these figures will continue to drop due to the use of bromelain, a new treatment that is proving to be very effective in treating these types of injuries, allowing patients who previously needed at least seven days in hospital to be released after two or three days.

Caustic soda and lighters

“Never let children near frying pans or pots while you are cooking, and don’t let them play with lighters or flammable liquids”. This is one of the recommendations to prevent burns highlighted by Jesús Monclús, the director of Risk Prevention & Road Safety at Fundación MAPFRE, who also mentioned the importance of taking the utmost precautions with certain chemical products, such as caustic soda, “a highly corrosive substance that can cause serious burns”, of not mixing cleaning products, as they can generate “highly toxic gases”, and of bathing babies at a temperature of between 35 ºC and 37 ºC.

Don’t use ice or toothpaste

“Burns are very common, but very often we have no idea what to do or how to treat them when they happen”. The director of Risk Prevention & Road Safety at Fundación MAPFRE emphasized that the first thing you should do if you experience a minor burn (first degree, and some second degree burns) is move away from the heat source that caused it, remove any clothing covering the burn and anything else in contact with the affected area, apply plenty of cold water (but not ice) and visit your nearest health center, especially if the skin blisters. He also stressed that you should never apply aloe vera, toothpaste or egg white to soothe the burn, and that some days later you should apply moisturizing cream several times a day and avoid any exposure to the sun. If the burn is very serious and painful, known as a third-degree burn which affects the outer, intermediate and innermost layers of the skin, then it is essential to go straight to the nearest A&E department.

Covid-19

“There is still a long way to go in preventing burns”, noted Enrique Monclús, the president of AEQUE and a specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University Hospital of Miguel Servet (Zaragoza), who pointed out the need to “get an in-depth understanding of the incidence and progress of these kinds of injuries, which are a serious threat to life, extremely painful and challenging to treat, and can occasionally leave major scarring”. The plastic surgeon, one of the most renowned in Europe, also mentioned the evolution of emergency treatments and hospital admittances for burns during the lockdown months which, according to the specialist, “dropped by between 80 and 90 percent”. He also noted that in March and April a total of four people with Covid-19 had to be admitted for serious burns, and that one of them died.

The full report is available at: www.fundacionmapfre.org

FUNDACION MAPFRE HAS RECORDED IMAGES SHOWING A MODEL WHOSE FACE HAS BEEN BURNED FROM USING BARBECUE FUEL AND AFTER THROWING WATER ONTO A BURNING FRYING PAN, BOTH OF WHICH ARE COMMON SITUATIONS THAT CAN LEAD TO SERIOUS BURNS. INTERESTED MEDIA COMPANIES CAN REQUEST THESE IMAGES BY EMAILING NDELOLM@FUNDACIONMAPFRE.ORG.