Burns from hot oil and grease: a public health hazard

J Burn Care Rehabil. Nov-Dec 1990;11(6):558-62. doi: 10.1097/00004630-199011000-00014.


We examined the incidence, etiology, and morbidity of burns due to hot oil and grease. Over a 10-year period from 1976 to 1985, of 1818 patients hospitalized for burns, 85 (4.7%) injuries were due to hot grease or oil. The mean age was 20 years; 34% of patients were less than 8 years old. The mean total body surface areas of second- and third-degree burns was 11.5% (range 0.5% to 40%), and the average length of hospital stay was 19.6 days. Fifty-eight percent of patients required split-thickness skin grafting (n = 49), three required intubation, and one required tracheostomy. Seventy-eight percent of oil burns occurred in the home. The most common circumstances consisted of children who grabbed the handle or electric cord of a frying pan and pulled the hot oil down onto themselves. (Nineteen of the 29 children were less than 8 years old (66%).) Burns due to cooking oil and grease are associated with considerable morbidity. The high boiling point, high viscosity, and potential combustibility of oil increase the potential soft-tissue damage when compared with typical scald injuries from hot water. The dangers of children pulling on the appliance, the dangers of transporting hot oil, the importance of supervision while children are cooking, and the importance of knowledge of the management of grease fires is stressed. Public education is needed to underline the potential seriousness of these burns.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Surface Area
  • Burns / epidemiology
  • Burns / etiology*
  • Burns / prevention & control
  • Burns / surgery
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fats / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Oils / adverse effects*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Fats
  • Oils