Summer is peak season for burns. And with the Fourth of July holiday approaching, we’re likely to see a spike in fireworks-related injuries, too. It’s estimated that 10,000 people in the United States visit the ER each year with fireworks-related injuries.
That’s why we sat down with Dr. Peter H. Grossman, medical director of the Grossman Burn Centers at HCA’s West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, for more information on the burn center, summer burn injuries and safety tips to avoid a visit to the hospital.
- How many people seek burn treatment annually at your facility?
At the Grossman Burn Centers, we treat approximately 3,000 patients per year. These patients include individuals with minor burn injuries whom we treat on an outpatient basis in our burn clinics, patients with serious burn injuries who are transferred to our centers from other hospitals, and patients with catastrophic, life-threatening burns who are admitted through our ER.
- What are the major culprits for burn injuries in the summer?
In the summertime we tend to see a lot of “thermal burns” that result from flames or contact with hot surfaces. Despite our best public outreach and burn prevention efforts, summer burns tend to follow a predictable pattern: recreational activities involving barbecues, fire pits, camp fires, bonfires, and fireworks produce an unfortunate number of burn injuries. We also treat many patients for severe sunburns and burns caused by hot pavement or sand.
- How often do I need to reapply sunblock?
It depends on the activity and the age of the individual. When swimming or exercising outdoors this summer apply more often. Age should be taken into consideration as the young and elderly have thinner skin, therefore, burns can happen faster and deeper.
- Do you see an uptick in fireworks, sunburn, grill-related injuries during the Fourth of July period?
Yes, we do see a spike in these kinds of injuries around the Independence Day holiday, unfortunately. At the Grossman Burn Center, we partner with local fire departments on an annual public safety campaign directed specifically for the Fourth of July holiday but, sadly, we still see an uptick in mid-summer burns.
- When should you seek medical treatment for a burn?
Always err on the side of caution and seek medical care for any burn, regardless of its depth or size. Burns are progressive injuries that will worsen over a period of as long as 24 hours after the initial injury. For serious burns such as an electrical burn, a chemical burn, an inhalation burn, or if the burn is on the face, hands, feet, genitals or a major joint area—seek immediate medical attention.
- For minor burns that don’t require hospitalization, what’s the best way to treat it?
If an individual suffers a minor burn and decides not to seek immediate treatment, there are some immediate steps to take. First, in the first five minutes after being burned, run cool – not cold– water over the affected area for 3 – 5 minutes. If the burn is minor– less than five percent (five times the size of the person’s palm) cool water will help relieve the pain. Next, cover the injury with a clean—preferably sterile—dressing to prevent an increase in pain and limit infection, especially if the burn is an open wound. Finally, if the pain continues or worsens after 24 hours, seek medical attention from a burn expert.
- What are some tips that can help people avoid a visit to the hospital for a burn injury on the Fourth and throughout the summer?
There are a number of common-sense steps that people can take to stay safe this summer. Some basic tips include: wear proper shoes on hot pavement or sand; never use an accelerant to start or a fire or to stoke an existing fire; when barbecuing, open the grill hood before turning on the propane, avoid grease build-up on the grilling surface, and never leave a grill unattended; and, this July 4th, try these tips for a safe holiday:
- Children should NOT handle or play with fireworks
- Avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket, as the friction can set them off
- Don’t allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event- some may still be ignited/explode
- Have water close by & soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing in the trash can
- Light fireworks away from people, homes and flammable substances
The best advice is to skip the backyard fireworks and attend a professional fireworks display.
One of our patient’s was severely injured when a firework ignited near his face. He nearly lost his eye and required surgery to repair the damage. Luckily, he has made a full recovery.
For more burn safety tips, you can visit: http://www.ameriburn.org/Preven/SummerSafetyEducator’sGuide.pdf
Visit here for more information on the Los Angeles-based Grossman Burn Center.