Don’t Get Burned: Follow These Tips

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Fire has been both friend and foe since the days of cavemen and women. Our modern society has mostly tamed the fire, but it’s good to have a healthy respect for heat in all its forms. 

Burn specialist Travis Perry, MD, with Comprehensive Burn and Wound Specialists, Dayton, Ohio, describes our skin as the armor that protects our bodies from the world around us. If a burn penetrates that armor, it not only causes pain, but also leaves your body open to bacteria. 

Dr. Perry offers suggestions for burn treatment and prevention during the summer months and year round.

First-Line Treatment

If you do get burned, Dr. Perry’s general advice is to run cool water on the burn or apply some aloe to relieve the pain. Don’t use ice, which can actually deepen the burn. 

Seek medical attention if the burn blisters. Blistering indicates second-degree burns, which require antibacterial treatment. [pulled quote begins] “Minor burns can become major problems if not treated correctly. [pulled quote ends – insert “] A burn specialist can calculate the extent of the burn by the amount of heat and extent of contact,” Dr. Perry says. 

Summertime Safety Reminders

As you’re having fun in the sun, take action to prevent burns:

Sunburn: When spending time outdoors, don’t forget sunscreen to prevent the pain and long-term skin damage of sunburn. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects you from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (B) light. A sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 is generally fine for everyday use. For prolonged sun exposure or for children, use at least a 30 SPF. Re-apply about every two hours and after swimming or sweating. You can also wear protective clothing and hats and limit sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.

Fireworks: Dr. Perry advises leaving fireworks to the professionals. For those who choose to set off their own fireworks, he and the National Council on Fireworks Safety suggest the following guidelines to maximize safety: 

  • Follow local laws and the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never set off fireworks in your hand or try to re-light a dud firework.
  • Set off fireworks in a large, open space and have a bucket of water and hose handy.
  • Wear safety glasses.
  • Wet down spent fireworks and dispose of them in a metal garbage can that doesn’t contain flammable substances.
  • Don’t drink alcohol while setting offer fireworks; wait until after the show.

Grilling: When grilling, be sure to light your gas grill properly. Dr. Perry explains, “The most common error is forgetting the gas is on as you make multiple attempts to relight the grill. When it finally lights, the gas may cause a big ball of flame, burning your hands or face.”

Car seats: Check car seats left in the hot sun before putting young children into them. Feel the seat and metal latches to make sure they won’t burn arms and legs. 

Playground surfaces: Beware of hot playground equipment or ground surfaces. Check slides and other equipment before allowing children to play. 

Safety Tips Around the House

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Protect yourself from fires and burn injuries when you’re in your house and yard. Follow these common-sense tips:

  1. Keep smoke alarms in your house in good working order. Check them each month. To help you keep track, change the batteries when the time changes in spring and fall. 
  2. Have a plan in case of fire. Conduct fire drills with your family so everyone knows how to exit the house and where to meet. If you have a two-story home, have a fire escape ladder easily accessible and practice using it. Buy one or two fire extinguishers for your home, and make sure you know how to use them.
  3. Don’t smoke in bed.
  4. Don’t smoke if you are on home oxygen. 
  5. Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Or turn your temperature setting to low-medium. 
  6. If you have small children in the house, prevent electrical burns by covering electrical outlets. 
  7. Keep children away from hot irons and out of the kitchen when you’re cooking. They’ll be safer away from hot stoves and hot food.
  8. When burning trash or brush, don’t use an accelerant like gasoline to start the fire or keep it going. Accelerants can cause a flash flame or explosion. 
  9. Don’t become intoxicated around a fire pit or bonfire. You can lose your balance and fall into the fire.
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