Topic Progress:

Topic One: Thermal Burns

Thermal burns can be caused by flame, hot water, steam or other hot liquids and hot surfaces. They can also be due to exposure to extreme cold, which can cause thermal burns.

Flame injuries

These injuries are the most common form of burn. Flame injuries can be of any depth. (See the section ‘Burn Types’ for definitions of burn depths).


Frequently due to the spilling of hot drinks and liquids or immersion in a hot bath or shower. Scalds tend to cause superficial or superficial dermal burns and may involve a large area of skin.

Scalds caused by viscous liquids like oil, grease, liquid glue or liquid wax that are splashed on a person’s skin tend to cause more severe burn injuries than scalds from liquids with greater fluidity, like hot water.

Immersion scalds can result in more severe burn injuries because of the increased duration of contact between the heat agent and the skin. (International Best Practice Guidelines, 2014; Jeschke et al., 2018)

Contact burns

Can occur either when the skin touches an extremely hot object or when it touches a less hot object for a very long time, e.g. a radiator. The latter may be seen in people who have lost consciousness, such as those with epilepsy or who misuse alcohol or drugs, or in elderly people after a fall or blackout. Common sources of contact burns include irons, oven doors and radiators. Contact burns tend to cause deep dermal or full thickness burns. (Wounds International, 2014; Jeschke et al., 2018)