Everyone has burned themselves once or twice, on a stove, a curling iron, or at a campfire. Fire is one of nature’s greatest creations, one that humans need to survive, yet one of the most deadly if not understood and utilized properly. Unlike most people, I have an appreciation and fear for fire. Having a cousin in CAL Fire , which is part of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection which handles safeguarding people and the California resources through large efforts of fire protection. I have also dealt with fires in my California neighborhood, and have watched many friends lose their homes and prized possessions, I know fires are serious business and can cause damage not only to homes but people.
According to the CDC, on average in the United States someone dies from a fire every 169 minutes and someone is injured every 30 minutes. Burn injuries are second to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States .The American Burn Association estimates that nearly 450,000 people with burn injuries receive medical treatment per year and out of that nearly 30,000 severe burn cases receive treatment at hospital burn centers.
There are four different types of burns:
1. Thermal – Caused by heat including fire, steam, hot objects or liquids. Thermal is the most common burn type.
2. Chemical – Caused by contact with household or industrial chemicals in a liquid, solid or gas form. Even some natural foods like chili peppers contain capsaicin , which can cause irritation to the skin and burning. It is also commonly used for self-defense tools such as pepper spray.
3. Electrical – Electrical burns are often caused by electrical sources or by lightning.
4. Radiation – Radiation burns are common as they are typically referred to as sunburns. But they can also be caused by tanning booths, sun lamps, x-rays, or radiation therapy for cancer patients.
For most burns you want to run cool water over the affected area and never use ice as this can shock your skin. Run water over it for about 10 minutes or so until some of the pain and redness subsides. Cover the wound with a sterilized gauze, not something with cotton that could get into the wound. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burn, reduces pain and protects blistered skin. If the pain persists take an over the counter pain medication.
If a chemical burn has happened call your local poison control immediately and emergency services. If an electrical burn has happened you first want to check that they have a regular heartbeat from the electrocution and then call emergency services. When preparing to go to the doctor, cover your burns with a clean dry cloth to prevent infection. Do not put any medication or salve on so your doctor can fully assess the burn properly.
To help distinguish the severity of your burn and how to determine the emergency care needed, you first must recognize the three degrees of burns.The varying degrees of burns are:
1st degree – The least serious of all burns where only the outer layer of skin is burned. The symptoms include reddening of the skin, slight swelling and pain. You should treat first degree burns as minor unless it involves large parts on your hand, feet, face, or rear end, which may require medical attention.
2nd degree – This is when the first layer of skin has been burned through down to the second layer of skin called the dermis . Blisters develop on the skin, there is severe pain and swelling and the skin is intensely red and splotchy. If the burn is small, no larger than three inches, treat it as you would a first degree, if larger seek immediate medical attention.
3rd degree – The most serious of all burn degrees. This burn involves all layers of skin and can cause permanent tissue damage. In severe cases fat, muscle, even bones may be affected. Areas of the burn may be charred black or appear to be dry and white. Difficulty inhaling and exhaling, carbon monoxide poisoning or other toxic effects may occur if smoke inhalation accompanied the burn. When dealing with third degree burns do not treat it like a regular burn. Do not remove any burned clothing, or immerse them in cold water as the body may go into shock or hypothermia. Call emergency services immediately and try to elevate the burned body parts.
Learning proper fire safety is very important to help prevent such burns. Some tips to keep in mind to avoid such disasters include; never leave lit candles unattended, always stay in the kitchen when cooking, avoid wearing clothes with long sleeves while cooking, keep children away from hot surfaces, and never put portable space heaters near flammable items. Also, never smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended, as smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths . Making sure you have functioning fire alarms in your household will alert you of fires.
Understanding the dangers of fire and its lasting effects my seem inconsequential to some. But many accidental burns leave bitter memories and lasting scars. Many organizations are around to help with such burn patients cope and heal. One group I support is called The Burn Institute which created a camp for child burn victims called Beyond the Scars . It is funded by donations throughout the year and many of the camp volunteers are off-duty firefighters or adult burn survivors who are there to help “transform burn victims into burn survivors”. Organizations like these help to change victims lives.
Burn injury attorney William Tiano says ” A burn injury is devastating to a family ,not only is it disfiguring to the person that has received it, but the amount of recovery and potential complications from infection…that a burn injury must go through and the scars that are left are devastating.”
Knowing basic burn and fire safety could help save your home and your life. Keep a basic fire emergency plan ready for your family and be sure they know all the emergency exits in the house. Help prevent thousands of burn injuries and fire related deaths by remembering these basic burn prevention and fire safety tips.