Hillcrest Burn Center Doctor Offers Summer Safety Tips
During the summer months, families’ schedules and activities change with the season. Campouts, fireworks and cookouts are fun, but they also come with the potential for accidents. Armed with knowledge about hazards and how to prevent them, your family can navigate the summer injury-free.
We asked Dr. Tara Wilson, medical director with the Alexander Burn Center at Hillcrest what families should be aware of in order to avoid burn accidents both in the summertime and throughout the year.
Q: What is the most common pediatric burn injury that you see?
Dr. Wilson: The most common pediatric burn is a scald injury that results from tipping over of hot liquids in children under 3 years of age, followed by kitchen and bathroom accidents in older children.
Q: As families head into the summer months, older children may be home alone. Families will be spending more time outdoors and enjoying activities such as cookouts or outdoor celebrations. What are some of the most common pediatric injuries you see at the burn center during the summer months?
Dr. Wilson: We see an increase in burns related to outdoor activities. As camping and bonfires become more common, we see contact burns as a result of children falling into the campfire. We also see an increase in adult burns related to camping/bonfires/grilling when a fire accelerant is used to start fires resulting in flash burns.
As celebrations start to occur more, we will see an increase in flame/contact burns related to playing with fireworks, which are always scary as they burn at a higher temperature and the hands are almost always involved.
Q: What ages, if any, have the most injuries, or are there certain injuries that are more common in different age groups?
Dr. Wilson: The majority of burns in the toddler age group are consistently due to scald injury throughout the year.
Flame burns in male children between the ages of 5-10 become more common due to playing with fire and risk-taking behaviors.
Burns in female children between the ages of 5-10 are still more likely to be scald injury due to activities in the kitchen and/or bathroom.
During adolescence, flame burns start to take over due to male peer-group activities involving gasoline such as YouTube pranks and the use of fireworks.
Q: Do sunburns count as injuries you see in the burn center? How do you know if it’s serious? Why is it important to avoid sunburn?
Dr. Wilson: A superficial (1st degree) burn is anything that turns the skin pink. When blistering occurs, that is a partial thickness (2nd degree) burn. Sunburns are absolutely seen in the burn center and can be treated with the same materials and in the same fashion as scald/flame/contact burns. The body’s response to the burn is the same. Any sunburn that blisters is serious and increases that person’s risk/lowers their threshold to have a blistering sunburn again in the future. Appropriate treatment for a severe sunburn can shorten the recovery period. It is important to avoid sunburn due to the immediate consequences of pain and wound issues but also for avoidance of heat injury and long-term susceptibility of it occurring again combined with increased risk for skin cancer associated with blistering sunburns.
Q: What other advice to you have for families regarding pediatric burn injuries?
Dr. Wilson: The Alexander Burn Center at Hillcrest Medical Center and the Utica Park Outpatient Burn Clinic are here to assist with any burn injury. We have an experienced multidisciplinary burn team ready to assist in triage and subsequent treatment of all burns. We are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days out of the year. The sooner we are able to assess and initiate treatment for a burn, the sooner your burn will be on the road to recovery. Delay in burn treatment increases the risk for infection, which subsequently increases pain and delays healing.
Tips for Avoiding Burn Injuries
Dr. Tara Wilson, medical director with the Alexander Burn Center at Hillcrest offers the following tips for parents:
- Parental supervision is one of the top priorities when discussing scald/flame/contact burns. Kids are quick and oftentimes one step ahead of us. Accidents happen, and we are here to help when they do. Prevention is key.
- Keep kids out of the kitchen when cooking. Keep at least three feet of distance between hot fluids and children.
- In the bathroom, purchase a thermometer for the bathtub to ensure that the bathwater is at an appropriate temperature before placing a child in the water.
- Keep the house water heater set at 120 degrees or lower to decrease risk for scald injuries.
- No horseplay around campfires/bonfires.
- Do not use fire accelerant/gasoline when starting campfires/bonfires/grilling.
- If using fireworks, make sure children are supervised by adults and the fireworks are age-appropriate.