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Brooks Schuelke
Brooks Schuelke
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Avoiding Burn Injuries This Fourth of July

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With the Fourth of July approaching, everyone is planning picnics and parties. The 232nd Independence Day will no doubt see its share of barbeque grills, tiki torches, and fireworks. But amidst all the festivities, it’s important to take precautions to prevent the celebration from turning sour. The sad truth is that, while most look forward to the fun of the Fourth of July, local hospitals and fireman know it means increased cases of burn victims. According to Consumer Reports, most fireworks mishaps occur around the Fourth of July . Although plenty of cities have banned fireworks for their danger, it is not uncommon to see the rockets of violators shoot up into the sky and explode. The cities generally allow the use of small fireworks , including sparklers, poppers, snake worms, smoke devices, and noise makers. However, “small” does not mean “safe.” Sparklers can reach temperatures of up to 1800 degrees and burn dangerously close to the hand the longer they are lit. Smoke bombs will flame 2 to 3 inches when first ignited. Poppers are usually kept in the pocket where they can explode and burn the skin and clothes. Nationally, there are 10,000 injuries per year resulting from fireworks. With 40% of those injuries occurring to children ages 10-14 years, how do we prevent a burn injury?

Here are some tips from our friends at the National Council on Fireworks Safety :

  • Always have water handy (either in a bucket or with a hose)
  • Do not alter or combine fireworks (use only as intended)
  • Never re-light a “dud”
  • Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter
  • Only persons over the age of 12 should be able to handle sparklers
  • Do not use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives
  • And for the ADULTS: Fireworks and alcohol do not mix! Use a designated shooter!

Unfortunately, fireworks aren’t the only cause of burn injuries. Every day the news reports on burn injuries happening in communities across the nation. Just recently in California, an 18 month-old baby died hours after suffering burn injuries from the hot water in his bath tub. On the other side of the country, a 12 year-old in Tampa Bay suffered severe burns on 45% of his body after he caught on fire while playing with gas. Every year, more than 2.2 million Americans suffer from burns. A burn is defined as tissue damage caused by a variety of agents, such as heat, sunlight or chemicals. Burn injuries can have devastating results because of the significant damage to the skin. The skin is our body’s protector as it helps regulate body temperature, prevents fluids from evaporating, and provides a barrier against infection. Damaging this barrier leaves the body vulnerable. According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences , there are up to 10,000 deaths in the United States every year resulting from burn-related infections such as pneumonia.

Although the most common burns are caused by scalds, building fires, and flammable liquids, many causes of burn injuries are found right in our own home. The top ten causes of serious burns to people in the home include: barbeque grills, clothes irons, curling irons, fireplaces, radiators, ovens, hot pots on the stove, coffee cups, hot tap water, and steam from microwaved foods. Be sure to watch out for these “hot spots” around the house and take necessary precautions when using these appliances.

But what do you do if the iron accidentally fell on your hand, or the coffee spilled when pouring, or a hot coal fell out onto your foot? Once you get burned, you can assess proper treatment based on the type of burn injury you received. Burns are categorized as three types of injury: first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree.

First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of the skin, or the epidermis. These are typically small or minor burns, such as sunburns. First-degree burns make the skin appear dry and red. These burns may be treated with cold water by placing it under tap water or placing a cold damp towel over the injury. Do not put ice, butter, or ointments on the burn. Also, do not bust any blisters that may have formed. If the injury is sunburn, you may rub aloe onto the skin to cool it down and protect it from further sun damage.

Second-degree burns damage the epidermis and the dermis layer beneath it. If you sustain second or third-degree burns, you should consult a doctor for treatment. A second-degree burn injury will involve a blistering of the skin. The swelling or blistering is caused by the loss of fluid from damaged blood vessels. Again, do not break the blisters. After consulting a physician, these burns may be treated with topical anti-biotic creams or ointments to prevent infection.

Third-degree burns entail damage or complete destruction of the skin and damage to underlying tissues. You may not feel pain the in burned area because the nerve endings are usually destroyed. The burn will appear charred, firm and leathery. Often, this severe burn injury will require skin grafting. If you or someone you know acquires a third-degree burn, you should immediately seek emergency help.

For more information regarding burn injuries, please visit the American Burn Association , the Burn Institute , or the National Institute of General Medical Sciences . Have a safe holiday weekend and happy grilling!