Most burns are preventable, but nearly half a million Americans need burn treatment every year. Tens of thousands may need hospitalization. Though America and other first-world nations are generally less prone to burns than poorer nations, there’s still room for improvement.

Every year, the American Burn Association (ABA) promotes National Burn Awareness Week to call attention to the dangers that burns present. In 2020, it runs from February 2 – 8, and the theme is contact burns.

What are contact burns?

Place your hand on an oven range or grab a bottle of boiling water, and you might suffer a contact burn. Contact burns result from physical contact with hot objects.

Unlike scalding, which involves hot liquids, contact burns involve dry objects. So, if you spill hot coffee, you might scald yourself. If you grab a metal bottle after someone pours boiling water into it, the dry bottle could burn you.

How serious are contact burns?

Contact with hot objects can result in burns that range anywhere from first to third degree. Third degree burns are marked by damage that goes through the outer and inner layers of skin and into the nerves and fat beneath. These burns can lead to permanent damage and disfigurement.

How common are contact burns?

Contact burns are less common than flame burns, but they still account for nearly 15.5% of all serious burns. The ABA reports that in 2018 roughly 70,000 people suffered contact burns so bad they needed to go to the emergency room.

Where do most burns take place?

The World Health Organization reports that most people suffer burns either in their homes or at work. They’re more common in poorer countries than in the United States.

A 2011 report from the Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters looked at two years of data from Augusta, Georgia hospitals. The report claimed that 15% of the victim’s burns had been workplace related.

How long does it take to recover from a contact burn?

The Mayo Clinic says most minor burns will heal within a week. People with more serious burns may need to spend time in a burn center. They may need skin grafts, emotional support and extensive psychological and physical therapy.

These are expensive remedies, and victims often need help to secure compensation that considers their hospital bills, lost wages, therapy and reduced quality of life.

How can I protect my family and myself?

Most burns are preventable, and you can keep your family safe at home by keeping hot objects out of reach. At work, your employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace. You can help by pointing out areas of concern.