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The cost of keeping warm: the relationship between a rise in the cost of domestic energy and burn injuries caused by personal heating equipment

Totty, Joshua P; Austin, Orla; Umair Anwar, Muhammed; Muthayya, Preetha; Phipps, Alan R


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Mr Josh Totty
NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Plastic Surgery

Orla Austin

Muhammed Umair Anwar

Preetha Muthayya

Alan R Phipps


During 2022-2023, the UK found itself in the midst of a domestic energy crisis, with the average domestic gas and electricity bill rising by 75% between 2019 and 2022. As a result, the use of hot water bottles, radiant heaters, and electric blankets increased. An unintended consequence of this may be an increase in burn injuries caused by misfortune, misuse, or the use of items in a state of disrepair.
The aim of this study was to explore any increase in referrals to a single burns centre in England for injuries caused by hot water bottles, radiant heaters, or electric blankets.
This was a retrospective study of a prospectively maintained database of referrals. All referrals between January 2022 and January 2023 were selected and compared with the same period from 2020-2021 (before the rise in energy prices). Referrals were screened for the terms “hot water bottle,” “electric heater,” “electric blanket,” and “heater.” Total referrals in each period, demographic data (age, gender), anatomical location and the mechanism of injury were compared between cohorts.
There was a statistically significant increase in the number of burns relating to heating implements between 2020/21 and 2022/23, rising from 54 to 81 (p = 0.03) – a 50% increase in injuries. Injuries in working age adults increased significantly (52% to 69%, p < 0.05). The most frequently injured area was the leg (30%) followed by the hand (18%). The commonest type of injury described was scald (72%). There was a moderate-strong correlation between the number of referrals and the average cost of energy in 2022-23.
There was a significant increase in the number of injuries sustained by people using personal heating equipment, which correlated with the rise in domestic energy prices. The most affected demographic appears to be working age adults, with wider implications around lost work-time yet to be explored. Further prospective, population-based work is required to assess the strength of the correlation seen in this study.


Totty, J. P., Austin, O., Umair Anwar, M., Muthayya, P., & Phipps, A. R. (2024). The cost of keeping warm: the relationship between a rise in the cost of domestic energy and burn injuries caused by personal heating equipment. Burns, 50(6), 1475-1479.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 19, 2024
Online Publication Date Mar 21, 2024
Publication Date Aug 1, 2024
Deposit Date Mar 20, 2024
Publicly Available Date Mar 22, 2025
Journal Burns
Print ISSN 0305-4179
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 50
Issue 6
Pages 1475-1479
Keywords Cost of Living; Public health; Scald injuries
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