The burning issues of motor vehicle radiator scald injuries revisited - A fresh review and changing prevention strategies

Jugal N. Patel, A. Tan, Q. Frew, P. Dziewulski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A preventable subgroup of burn injuries is scalds sustained from motor vehicle radiators. This study was to determine changes in trends in epidemiology of such injuries and to discuss whether current and other prevention efforts proposed previously require reinforcement. We conducted a retrospective study (February 2007-August 2015) of all motor vehicle-related burn referrals to our regional burns service. 68 cases of motor vehicle radiator burns were identified. Male to female ratio was 65:3. Mean age was 35.1 (range = 9-71). Most cases occurred in the summer months (22/68 = 32.4%). 65 cases (95.6%) involved car radiators. 66% of injuries resulted from actively removing the pressure cap of an overheated radiator in the motor vehicle. Mean total burn surface area (%TBSA) was 2.1% (range = 0.5- 11%). The depths of burn injuries were mostly superficial partial thickness. Face, chest and upper limbs were the most common sites of injury. Mean healing time was 14.2 days (range = 4-60). Following the introduction of safety measures by vehicle manufacturers, motor vehicle radiator burns in this era are mostly minor injuries and can be potentially managed conservatively as an outpatient. This contrasts with findings from previous studies over a decade ago of larger, more significant injuries requiring admission and surgery. Whilst manufacturers have installed safety measures into the design of radiator caps, our findings suggest that re-educating the public to allow a period of cooling prior to opening caps should be reinforced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-258
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Burns and Fire Disasters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Burns
  • Car
  • Motor vehicle
  • Radiator
  • Scald

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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