This is a case-control study conducted at two major public units for paediatric burn injuries in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Cases (n = 94) were 0-11-year-old Brazilian children admitted to one of these two burn units. Controls (n = 148) were 0-11-year-old children admitted to the paediatric clinics of the two hospitals where the cases were chosen and from another hospital placed at the same geographic region. Odds ratios (OR) based on logistic regression and 95 percent confidence intervals (95%-CI) were estimated for a number of putative risk factors. The risk of burns was higher for children who lived in crowded households (OR = 2.2; 95%-CI = 1.1-4.7), were not the first-born (OR = 2.5; 95%-CI = 1.2-5.2), had a pregnant mother (OR = 5.0; 95%-CI = 1.2-21.8), had a mother recently dismissed from a job (OR = 7.0; 95%-CI = 1.5-33.9) and had recently moved residence (OR = 4.9; 95%-CI = 1.7-14.3). A history of previous accident had a significant protective effect among males who lived in good environmental conditions (OR = 0.3; 95%-CI = 0.1-0.7), whereas no significant effect was detected in any other strata of gender and living conditions. Proper regulation of design and production of industrial products such as alcohol and domestic stoves, coupled with adequate social support and health education programmes could contribute to lower the incidence of severe burn injuries.