Month: October 2014

Preventing Burns at Home

The topic of burns in the home is little discussed. However, if you ask any emergency room doctor, you will know how serious & prevalent scalding injuries are. It is important to protect yourself and your family with safeguards that will help reduce the likelihood of suffering a serious burn injury.

Seventy-five percent of scalds and burns happen at home. It only takes one second of contact with water or liquid hotter than 155°F to get a third degree burn, just 15 seconds with water temperature of 133°F or higher. Third degree burns are very serious and require immediate medical attention. Third degree burns create full thickness destruction of the skin; therefore, skin grafts and months of rehabilitation are required. Burns damage the skin, which protects us against infection, and makes us more likely to gain serious infections that could be life threatening.

Children age 14 and younger are at risk for burns at home. Each year 24,000 children are treated in emergency rooms in the United States for burns not associated with fires. That means that one child is seriously enough burned to be taken to the emergency room every 22 minutes. Children do not fully understand their surrounds at these ages yet remain curious about everything around them. They have thinner skin, which gives them less protection against burns. Non-fire related burns are the leading cause of death for children 4 and younger.

Adults over the age of 65 are at great risk as well. Elderly person have weaker immune systems and preexisting medical conditions, which would add to the likelihood of going through more extensive treatment for burns. Their reflexes are slower, their eyesight is poorer, and most of their body systems are compromised, which gives them a diminished judgment. Most of their injuries occur at home and are associated with hot food or water.

While, most people think that the kitchen is the most dangerous place to get a burn, few would think that the bathroom or exposed radiators are just as dangerous. Most people associate the bathroom as a place of comfort and relaxation. However, it is second only to the kitchen as to where the most burns occur. Cases involving parents who unknowingly put their kids in extremely hot bath water without first checking the temperatures are common. The kids in turn get third degree burns over their entire bodies. This leads to medical care in the form of skin grafts and long-term rehabilitation. Other than burns, people could break bones or tear ligaments trying to get out of an extremely hot shower or bath.

These injuries can easily be prevented. Always check the bath and shower water before getting in. You must make sure that your water heater is not set higher than 120°F; this will greatly reduce the likelihood of being burned and spikes in water temperature while you are in the shower. If you rent, notify your landlord via written letter or e-mail if there is a problem with the water being too hot or the water becoming very hot because someone flushed a toilet. Therefore, if a burn does occur because the landlord failed to fix the water heater or pipes than you will be protected. Remind your landlord that the law requires him or her to make the appropriate corrections for a tenant’s safety.

In the winter, people turn the heat up and exposed radiators will become exceptionally hot. Since radiators are not hot all the time children cannot distinguish when they are hot or cold. Even adults could easily fall into them if distracted. Elderly people with preexisting medical problems might become incapacitated in some way (faint, loss of consciousness, etc.) and land on a heated radiator. This is very severe if they live alone, because by the time anyone finds them, they will have significant burns on their body. Therefore, putting a protective screen or barrier around exposed radiators ensures that no one will be burned accidently.

Scalding injuries in the kitchen pose even greater dangers than in the bathroom. Cooking temperatures are frequently close to boiling, which will cause third degree burns in less than a second. Most accidents in the kitchen involve hot liquids being spilled such as coffee or soup. It takes seconds to turn a delicious beef stew into a life changing burn. The dangers arise in two forms: the cooking process and the transporting of hot liquids. Kids, naturally, are going to gravitate to what their parents are doing. A parent must be constantly aware when the kids are in the kitchen and take the precautions to keep them safe. Therefore, using the back burners when possible and keeping the handles of pots faced in will ensure that you will not accidently spill. Also, never leave children alone in the kitchen when you are cooking, and if they are in the kitchen with you, make sure they cannot reach anything that could spill or is hot.

The most common type of injury that could lead to severe scalding & a house fire is boiling oil. While it might be your first instinct to through water on oil that catches fire, this is a bad idea. Instead, while you cook, keep a lid or flat cookie sheet within reach. Therefore, if flames appear you can suffocate them.

If in the unfortunate case that you do get burn, there are specific steps that you should take to reduce the effects. First, stop the burning process and then remove any clothing that is burned. If the clothing is attached to your skin, do not attempt to remove it. Once this is done, pour cool water over (not cold or hot) the burned area for 3-5 minutes or until the ambulance arrives. Then cover the area with a clean dressing (it could be gauze, bandage or a sheet). If you have burns to your face, neck, hands, feet or genital areas or if there are blisters and severe burned skin you must seek immediate medical attention. Remember do not apply any aloe or other ointments because it may cause infection. Also, remember not to break any blisters and wear loose fitting clothing while the burns are healing. If you have any doubt, seek medical care.

-Samuel Davis (The Safety Report)