Burn Awareness Week Feb 6-10
As 75 to 80 percent of burn injuries happen in and around the workplace or at home, it is important for you to be aware of risks and take precautions to make your work place and home safe for you and your family. Each year in the United States, 1.1 million burn injuries require medical attention. Approximately up to 4,500 people die every year in the U.S. from burns and related infections. Included below is information from the American Red Cross Emergency Services to help you learn more about burns, how to prevent them and what to do if you or a family member or co-worker sustains a burn.
What is a burn?
Very simply, a burn is damage to the skin and underlying tissue. It is caused by heat, chemicals, radiation or electricity, and may damage or destroy skin cells. Deeper burns may involve the fat, muscle or bone. Scalds result when one or more layers of skin are destroyed by contact with hot liquid or steam.
The depth of injury depends on two things:
- temperature to which the skin is exposed
- length of time the skin is exposed to the burning substance
The higher the temperature, the shorter amount of time is required to inflict a burn injury.
What are the most common causes of burns?
Burns may be caused by several different mechanisms, each with their own complications:
- Scalds– these types of burns result when skin comes into contact with hot liquids (spilled liquids or food, hot bathwater)
- Contact burns– these burns result from contact of the skin with hot items, including flames
- Chemical burns– these burns result from contact of the skin with chemicals, or by ingestion of chemicals
- Electrical burns– these types of burns result when a person comes into contact with a source of electrical energy; includes burns caused by electrocution and lightning strike
- Radiation burns- these types of burns result from contact with a source of radiation; may include overexposure i.e. sunburn
Burns may be classified according to the tissue damaged (first, second or third degree) and also according to the mechanism of burn injury. Knowing the types of burns allows health professionals to tailor their treatment accordingly and predict which patients require more specialized care, as well as which patients are more at risk for complications.
What are the symptoms of each degree of burn?
First degree (Superficial)
- Causes sunburn, minor scalds
- Generally heals in three to five days with no scarring
Characteristics of Injury:
- Minor damage to the skin
- Color: pink to red
- Skin is dry without blisters
Second degree (Partial thickness)
- Damages but does not destroy top two layers of the skin
- Generally heals in 10 to 21 days
- Does not require skin graft
Characteristics of Injury:
- Skin is moist, wet and weepy
- Blisters are present
- Color: bright pink to cherry red
- Lots of swelling
- Very painful
Third degree (Full thickness)
- Destroys all layers of the skin
- May involve fat, muscle and bone
- Will require skin graft for healing
Characteristics of Injury
- Skin may be very bright red or dry and leathery, charred, waxy white, tan or brown
- Charred veins may be visible
- Cannot feel touch in areas of full thickness injury
At what temperature can water burn a person?
Children and seniors sustain severe burns at lower temperatures and in less time than adults. Because their skin is thinner, they cannot react quickly to escape the hot water or they lack skin sensitivity due to other medical conditions. Water temperatures figured in both Celsius and Fahrenheit for those of you that have a foreign made water heaters.
Water temperature Time required for a third degree burn
68 degrees C/155 F 1 second
64 degrees C/148 F 2 seconds
60 degrees C/140 F 5 seconds
56 degrees C/133 F 15 seconds
52 degrees C/127 F 1 minute
51 degrees C/124 F 3 minutes
48 degrees C/120 F 5 minutes
37 degrees C/100 F Safe temperature for bathing
How do I ensure safe water temperatures in my home?
To protect your family, you can apply one of these methods:
- The thermostat of a hot water heater can be set to deliver water at around 48 degrees Celsius(C) or 120 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Depending on the type of tank you have it is recommended that you consult an electrician.
- Devices, known as mixing valves or tempering valves, can be installed in the plumbing lines. These devices ensure that water is delivered at 48/120 degrees C/F by mixing in cooler water as needed.
- Devices, known as anti-scald devices, can be installed at individual taps or faucets. If the water gets too hot, a valve inside these devices slows the water to a trickle. You then restart the water by mixing more cold water into the tap.
To install these devices, it is recommended that you contact your local plumber. It is important to note that potentially harmful bacteria can grow in water heaters if set too low. Do not lower the temperature of your household water heater below 48/120 degrees C/F. Those with weak immune systems, lung and respiratory problems or organ transplants should check with their doctors before reducing the temperature of the water in their homes. Most families, however, can safely lower their water temperature to 48/100 degrees C/F without concern for other health risks as well as electric.
Burns can also come from gases and liquids. Here are the flashpoints for some common liquids and gases found around the home or workplace:
Safety Solvents 100-140°F
Diesel Fuel 125°F
Paint Thinner 105°F
How can I help prevent burns from happening to me or my family?
— Turn pot handles toward back of stove. Keep long cord appliances toward back of counter.
— Keep children at a safe distance from all hot items by using playpens, high chairs, etc.
— In a hotel if there is a fire alarm check the door or knob with the back of your hand for heat before opening doors
— Don’t cook with children underfoot. Create a safe zone.
— Never hold an infant or child while pouring or drinking hot liquids.
— Turn water heater temperature down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
— Always check water temperature before placing child in tub.
— NEVER leave your child unattended in the kitchen or bathtub.
— Put sunscreen on you and your children.
— Use safety plugs to cover electrical outlets.
— Never spray charcoal lighter fluid or gas on charcoal that has already been lit.
— Keep a screen or glass cover over your fireplace.
— Keep matches and lighters in a locked box, out of reach of children.
— Install smoke alarms on every level and in every sleeping area of your home. Test them once a month and replace batteries when necessary.
— Always place hot items on a secure surface to avoid accidental tipping.
— Never, never bury hot barbecue coals- extinguish with water first.
What you do to treat a burn in the first few minutes after it occurs can make a huge difference in the severity of the injury.
Immediate Treatment for Burn Victims
- 1. “Stop, Drop, and Roll” to smother flames.
- 2. Remove all burned clothing. If clothing adheres to the skin, cut or tear around burned area.
- 3. Remove all jewelry, belts, tight clothing, etc., from over the burned areas and from around the victim’s neck. This is very important; burned areas swell immediately.
What do I do if I or someone I know is burned?
1. Cool burn with water
Immediately pour cool water on burns or soak them for at least three to five minutes (20 minutes for a chemical injury). DO NOT USE ICE. Ice may cause more damage, stick to the burn and remove the skin. For scalds, immediately remove hot, wet clothing.
2. Do not apply ointments or butter
Use only cool water on burns. Ointments, butter, creams or salves allow the burn to retain heat, may cause infection and may hinder medical evaluation.
3. Cover the burn
Apply a soft, clean, dry dressing, bandage or sheet to the burned area. Do not break blisters, as this could let germs into the wound. Cover burn victims and keep them warm.
4. See a doctor
Adults should see a doctor if the burn is larger than the size of a quarter. Infants, young children and the elderly are endangered by even small burns, and should see a doctor.
Prevention and Sun Burn exposure /Tanning and Burning
When ultraviolet (UV) rays reach the skin’s inner layer, the skin makes more melanin. Melanin is the pigment that colors the skin. It moves toward the outer layers of the skin and becomes visible as a tan.
A tan does not indicate good health. A tan is a response to injury, because skin cells signal that they have been hurt by the sun’s UV rays by producing more pigment.
People burn or tan depending on their skin type, the time of year, and the amount of time they have spent in the sun. The six types of skin, based on how likely it is to tan or burn, are—
- I: Always burns, never tans, sensitive to sun exposure.
- II: Burns easily, tans minimally.
- III: Burns moderately, tans gradually to light brown.
- IV: Burns minimally, always tans well to moderately brown.
- V: Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark.
- VI: Never burns, deeply pigmented, least sensitive.
Although everyone’s skin can be damaged by too much sunlight, people with skin types I and II are at the highest risk.
Prevention can save lives, long term affects of sun burns and radiation can lead to melanoma, basil cell cancer or cataracts.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is the most easily treatable and least likely to spread, though it can damage surrounding tissue. Because basal cell carcinoma spreads slowly it occurs mostly in adults. Basal cell tumors can take on many forms, including a pearly white or waxy bump, often with visible blood vessels, on the ears, neck, or face. Tumors can also appear as a flat, scaly, flesh-colored or brown patch on the back or chest, or more rarely, a white, waxy scar.
Melanoma is not as common as other types of skin cancer, but it’s the most serious and potentially deadly. Possible signs of melanoma include a change in the appearance of a mole or pigmented area. Consult a doctor if a mole changes in size, shape, or color, has irregular edges, is more than one color, is asymmetrical, or itches, oozes, or bleeds. Melanoma can affect the skin only, or it may spread to organs and bones. It can be cured if it’s found and treated early.
A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of the eye that blocks the passage of light to the retina. Cataracts are painless but may cause vision problems, including foggy vision, glare from light, and double vision in one eye. Prevent cataracts by wearing a hat and sunglasses when in the sun.
Shun the Sun
The best way to prevent sunburn, premature wrinkles, skin cancer, and other damaging effects from the sun is to stay out of it, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you can’t, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more liberally (don’t forget the lips and ears!), wear a hat and sunglasses, and cover up with clothing when outdoors. If you notice changes to your skin such as a mole changing appearance, a new growth, or a sore that won’t heal, see a doctor right way.
Information provided by the American Red Cross, CDC and ADAM
Today’s blog post is brought to us courtesy of Ken Oswald
Safety and Security Manager for Plateau