FRIDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Sunburn might be the first
thing that comes to mind when you think of summer burns, but it's
not the only burn that could spoil your summertime fun.
"Prevention is a simple thing for the majority of burns -- it just takes some simple common sense and being willing to adhere to doing something safely," said Dr. James Holmes, director of the Burn Center and an associate professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. "Most people know burns can happen, but they don't think it will happen to them."
But if you use a grill, sit around a fire pit, light up the sky
with fireworks or spend any time outside, here are some suggestions
to help you avoid burns this summer:
Chances are you know by now that a lot of sun exposure is not a
good thing. Not only is sunburn a possibility, but in the long term
it makes the development of skin cancer more likely.
Yet despite good intentions, people do burn -- children,
especially. How do you know if a sunburn needs medical
"Children are more susceptible to serious burns because of their thinner skin," said Sheila Giles, a registered nurse and the burn program coordinator at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "If they've got a burn with blisters, they need medical attention. Or, if the burn covers a large part of their body. If the child isn't playful, or isn't drinking, you should have them looked at."
Giles said it's common for parents to bring in children who've
been burned on a cloudy day, apparently not realizing that a burn
can occur even when the sun isn't shining.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that time in the
sun be limited, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the
sun's rays are strongest. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a
sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and reapply it often
and liberally. Wear sunglasses and have your children wear
sunglasses with UV protection to protect the eyes.
Backyard fire pits have become increasingly popular, and the
old-standby campfire still reigns among many summertime campers.
But fire poses risks, too.
Giles said she's seen cases where a toddler has fallen into a
fire pit. Rather than trying to get out to avoid injury, toddlers
tend to freeze, which makes their injuries even more severe.
Older kids aren't exempt from fire risks, either. Teenagers like
to throw things into fires to see what might happen, she said, and
when that's an aerosol can or gasoline, the results can be
All of which makes supervision around fire critical. "Never
assume that your child or adolescent is aware of the dangers of
fire," Giles said. "Educate them, and talk about safety, but don't
assume they're safe because a fire pit is enclosed."
Holmes said that in certain areas of the country, it's still
common for people to burn trash. "If you're going to burn your
trash and you plan on using an accelerant, you need the right one:
diesel, kerosene or charcoal starter, but not gasoline," he
Fireworks can cause severe injuries, including burns, eye
injuries and even blindness.
"My recommendation for fireworks is to leave them to the professionals," Holmes said.
Even backyard fireworks aren't free from risk, he said, noting
particularly the burn potential of sparklers, fireworks that many
people consider so harmless that they allow small children to
"Sparklers burn at such a high ignition temperature, and the rod stays hot for hours," Holmes said. "Most people way underestimate the potential for an injury from sparklers."
And again, Giles said, it's important not to assume that a child
or teen knows how to be safe around fireworks.
No matter what your barbecuing pleasure -- gas or charcoal --
your grill ups the risk for a fire, and potential burns. Gas grills
have been linked to far more fires -- about 7,100 a year compared
with 1,200 for charcoal, according to the National Fire Protection
Association -- but either type has the potential to cause a
Giles said she's seen burns on children occur when people take
the lid off a hot charcoal grill, set it on the ground and then
return to grilling, only to have a child inadvertently touch the
hot lid. Also, people don't always make sure the charcoals are put
out properly when they're done grilling, and the hot coals can
catch a child's attention.
"Whenever you're grilling with children around, especially children of the toddler age, supervision is of utmost importance," she said.
Holmes also pointed out that it's crucial that you open the lid
of a gas grill before you light it. Open the lid and then wait a
minute or two to give any residual gas that may be lingering in the
grill time to dissipate so there's no explosion when you do light
If you've ever had to run across hot sand because it felt like
your feet were burning, know that they very well may have been.
It's possible to burn your feet, and require treatment for those
burns, from walking unprotected on sand, wooden boardwalks,
concrete or asphalt that's been heating for hours in the summer
sun. Simply wearing shoes, even flip-flops, should keep feet
"Certain areas of the country, like Phoenix, have a major problem with asphalt burns," Holmes said.
Giles said she hasn't seen a burn from a playground in quite
some time. But, if you live in an area where metal slides and other
metal playground equipment are still in use, don't let kids on them
in the middle of the day and test the temperature of the equipment
before you let children use it, she recommended.
The National Fire Protection Association has more about
A companion article explores
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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