MAYWOOD, IL – The American Burn Association (ABA) recognizes the first full week of February as National Burn Awareness Week to provide education on common burn injuries and provide tips on how to keep you and your family safe.
Each year, more than 450,000 people in the U.S. suffer serious burns requiring medical treatment, according to the ABA. The World Health Organization reports that burns cause 180,000 yearly deaths, with non-fatal burns listed as a leading cause of morbidity.
Loyola Medicine is home to the largest burn center in the region, treating over 4,000 patients each year. The Burn Center provides comprehensive care for adults and children with thermal injuries, electrical burns, chemical injury, frostbite, toxic epidermal necrolysis, inhalation injury and complex soft tissue infections, as well as support for patients after they leave the hospital and throughout recovery.
"We know that burns most commonly occur at home and in the workplace, so we encourage everyone to take every precaution possible when they find themselves in situations where burn injuries may occur," said Arthur Sanford, MD, a burn surgeon at Loyola Medicine's Burn Center. "This year, we hope to provide the community with tips for some of the most common causes of burn injuries for National Burn Awareness Week."
Burn injuries can occur in many everyday settings. Common causes include fire, hot liquids, steam, metal, glass or other objects, electrical currents, sunlight or freezing temperatures, chemicals and radiation.
Frostbite can occur in 30 minutes or less in sub-zero temperatures. Your ears, nose and feet are the most vulnerable to frostbite. Common symptoms include cold, white, hard skin; pain, itching and loss of feeling; swelling and blistering.
To prevent frostbite, wear a hat, gloves, scarf and boots, and dress in layers of loose fitting clothing and stay dry. Check your skin frequently and take regular warming breaks when working outside. Do not consume alcohol or caffeine if you are outside in cold weather.
Smoke Detectors and CO Monitors
In the home, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors save lives. Testing these devices monthly and having a fire evacuation plan and assembly point ready to go in case of emergency is the first step to being prepared if you need to evacuate.
Homeowners and renters should be aware of building code requirements for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors. For extra precaution, it is recommended to place one smoke detector in each bedroom. Upgrading to current smoke detector technology in older homes can provide extra safety with longer battery life, WiFi connection to share alerts throughout the home, and automatic testing sent right to your phone.
Cooking and Kitchen Safety
Cooking is the number one cause of house fires in the U.S. and can lead to a number of serious burn injuries. There are many simple ways for people to protect themselves and their loved ones from burn injuries in the kitchen.
Turning pot handles to the center of the stove will prevent young children from pulling them off. Clean grease from the stovetop and oven to prevent fires. Avoid wearing scarves and flowing sleeves while cooking, and keep long hair tied back.
When working with electrical appliances, keep wet hands away from outlets. Turning appliances off before unplugging them and holding the plug, never the cord, can also prevent potential injury.
Before starting a bonfire, check the weather. If high winds are forecast, cancel the bonfire. Keeping your fire small makes it easier to monitor. The bigger the fire, the bigger the disaster if something does go wrong. Do not start bonfires with an accelerant like gasoline or kerosene, and do not spray aerosols or toss containers or fireworks into the fire.
Supervise children at all times. Keep a safe distance from the fire, and avoid horseplay. Embers are hot even after fires go out, so keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby in case of emergency.
Whether at home or at work, prevention is key when it comes to chemical burns. At home, keep harmful chemicals locked in cabinets away from children. Wear gloves when using, and never combine two products together.
At work, wear personal protective equipment at all times, including eye protection, masks, gloves and clothing. Review OSHA documents and guidelines and note all irrigation sources for use in case of emergency.
When treating chemical burns after they happen, remember to wash thoroughly. Remove clothing and wash under running water. If the chemical is a powder, brush off the powder copious prior to irrigation. Go to the nearest emergency room or treatment center for treatment, and call poison control.
"If everyone committed to practicing these safety tips, we could greatly reduce the number of burn patients requiring medical treatment each year," said Dr. Sanford. "Burn injuries are entirely preventable with the proper precautions. During National Burn Awareness Week, we encourage everyone to implement these tips in their everyday life."
Loyola Medicine’s Burn Center provides the most advanced burn care to patients. The center houses an expanded hydrotherapy area for cleaning and dressing wounds and a rehabilitation area where physical and occupational therapists work with patients. An outpatient burn clinic is open five days a week to provide follow-up care. Loyola’s multidisciplinary team at the Burn Center includes specialists from pulmonology, wound management, nutritional support and physical rehabilitation.