Summer is here, and that means vacations, camping, picnics and fireworks. While warm weather brings these fun activities, it also brings fire hazards and burn risks. Keep your family safe by learning about how to prevent and treat common burn injuries.
Playground equipment can get incredibly hot and cause serious burns. Playground slides, for example, have been reported to reach temperatures exceeding 160 degrees, which is hot enough to cause first-, second- and sometimes third-degree burns. Fire poles, monkey bars, swings and black rubber playground bases can also reach these high temperatures. It is also important to remember that children burn more easily than adults. In order to lessen or avoid the likelihood of getting burned, you can:
- Choose playground equipment that is under shade.
- Don’t assume that the temperature of the equipment is safe.
- Touch the playground equipment. If the equipment feels hot, it is most likely too hot for your child’s skin
- Be aware of metal and dark-colored plastics, rubber, asphalt and concrete surfaces.
- Dress your child in pants to protect their legs.
- Don’t let your child go barefoot at the playground.
Outdoor cookouts are one of the best ways to spend a summer night. To keep yourself, children and others attending the cookout safe, you can:
- Keep a 3-foot safe zone around outdoor grills.
- Don’t walk away from the grill while it is lit.
- Use only starter fluid that is designed for lighting charcoal. Never use other flammable liquids to start a charcoal grill and never add lighter fluid to hot charcoals.
- Keep matches, lighters and lighter fluid away from children.
- Don’t pour water directly on coals, and beware of the steam that can arise unexpectedly.
- Don’t lean directly over the grill, and be aware of any clothing that can catch fire.
- Use long-handled tools.
The embers from a campfire are more likely to cause burns than the flames, and fire pits can stay hot for up to 12 hours after being put out. Stay safe by:
- Keeping children at least 3 feet away from the fire pit.
- Only using designated fire pits/rings.
- Supervising children when they toast foods such as marshmallows.
- Completely putting out the fire and coals by pouring water on the fire. Use the drown and stir method: pour on the water, stir and repeat.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to let the professionals handle them. For those who want to use their own fireworks (and live in areas where it is legal to do so), follow these tips:
- Only allow children to use fireworks under close adult supervision.
- Wear protective eyewear.
- Never hold lit fireworks in your hands.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance.
- Soak used fireworks in water for a few hours before disposing of them.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby.
One of the most dangerous types of fireworks is sparklers. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees which is hot enough to burn some metals. Sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room fireworks injuries.
How to Treat Minor Burns
Minor burns are easy to care for at home. A minor burn can be a first-degree burn or a second-degree burn in a small area. A first-degree burn occurs on only the top layer of skin and will turn red, swell and be slightly painful. A second degree-burn will blister, turn red, swell and be painful. To treat a minor burn:
- Remove any clothing from the burn area.
- Cool the burn, but do not use ice! Run the burn under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. If this is not possible, put a cool, clean wet cloth on the burn or soak the burn in a cool water bath for five minutes.
- After the burn is cooled, clean the burn gently with soap and water.
- Do not break blisters! An open blister can get easily infected.
- You can put a thin layer of petroleum jelly or aloe vera on the burn. Do not use cream, lotion, oil, cortisone, butter or egg white on the burn.
- If needed, you can protect the burn with sterile, non-stick gauze. Do not use a dressing that can shed fibers, as these may get stuck in the burn, and change the dressing once a day.
Minor burns can take up to three weeks to heal and may itch during the healing process. Do not scratch the burn if it begins to itch. You will also want to protect the burned area from the sun as this will help prevent scarring.
When to Call Your Doctor
Although you do not need to contact your doctor for a minor burn, a more serious burn does require medical attention. You should seek medical attention for:
- Burns from fire, electrical wire or sockets, or chemicals
- A burn area that is larger than 2 inches
- A burn area that covers the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint
- Deep burns
- Burns that cause the skin to look leathery
- Burns that appear charred
- Increased pain
- Oozing or pus
Stay safe this summer and contact your doctor if you have concerns about burns you or a family member may have.