Prevention Best Approach to Avoid Burn Injuries

Safety Reminders for National Burn Awareness Week


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More than 3,000 people will die from burn injuries this year; most due to fires at home. Nearly 100,000 will be burned badly enough to go to the emergency center. Children, elderly and the disabled are most at risk. About 35,000 people injured this year will be children under the age of 15.


February 5th through 11th is National Burn Awareness Week. The American Burn Association, Texas Tech Physicians and the Timothy J. Harnar Regional Burn Center are working together to bring attention to the risk of burns and how to prevent them.


Here are important reminders to help keep you and your family safe.


  • The kitchen should be a “no kid zone” while cooking. Try not to use front burners and turn pot handles toward the back so children cannot reach them.


  • When using electrical appliances that heat such as an iron, curlers, crock-pots or coffee pots, make sure it and cord are out of reach of children.


  • The microwave can be extremely dangerous. Unattended children should never use it to heat liquids. The liquid and bowl become quite hot will burn fingers causing a spill and worse burns.


  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children. Remember the fireplace can be extremely dangerous. There should be a three-foot “no kid zone” with a protective barrier.


  • Smoke alarms save lives. Make sure you get them installed and test them once a month using the test button. Smoke alarms should be placed outside each sleeping area and on every floor including the basement. They should be replaced every 10 years.


  • You may only have seconds to get out of a burning house. Older adults are at high risk for burn injuries due to slower reaction time, decreased mobility poor balance, vision and hearing. Should a fire start have a special plan for escape that assists anyone with a disability.


  • Set your hot water heater to 120 degree F.  A scald burn takes five minutes to occur with water at 120 degrees F but just one second at 140 degrees F.


  • A pan with grease in it can catch fire while cooking. Grease becomes too hot and can catch fire. If this happens,do not pour water on the flame, do nottry to move the pan or carry it outside, and do not throw baking products on the fire. Flour may look like baking soda but does not behave the same and can make the fire worse. You should turn off the heat, cover the pan with a metal lid, spray with a fire extinguisher or pour baking soda on it, but only if the fire is small.


  • Every one should wear close fitting sleeves when cooking. Loose sleeves can dangle over a flame and catch fire.


  • Smoking is the No. 1 cause of house fires. Smokers should go outside. Never smoke while lying down or drowsy. Do not smoke under the influence of alcohol or medications that make you fall asleep. Give smokers deep ashtrays. Wet cigarette butts and ashes before throwing them out.


  • Check electrical cords for cracks or tears in the cord and do not overload outlets.


  • All heaters need a safety space of three feet. Remove anything flammable such as paper, bedding or furniture outside that space.


  • Keep burning candles out of reach of children. Never burn candles while sleeping and use sturdy broad based candleholders.


  • There is only one safe use of gasoline - fuel for an engine. Do not store any flammable liquids (gasoline, propane, cleaning fluids or paint solvents) near a fire. Never, ever pour gasoline or a flammable liquid on a barbeque grill or open flame.


  • Medical oxygen can catch fire. No one should smoke in a house where medical oxygen is used.


  • Heating pads and electric blankets should always have timers that shut it off automatically, and they should never be placed directly on the skin.


If you do suffer a burn, remember most minor burns will heal on their own with home treatment. But if you suspect you may have a serious burn, cover your burn with a clean, dry cloth until you can get to a physician. The best help is prevention. Be informed, be smart and be safe.


John Griswold, M.D., from Texas Tech Physicians - Surgery, is also a professor in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences School of Medicine and medical director of the Timothy J. Harnar Regional Burn Center. 

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