If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or seek care at an emergency room.
Hear “summer” and “burns” in the same sentence and “sunburn” probably comes to mind. But that’s not the burn that I think of.
Between spring and fall, the top reasons for burns are outdoor barbecues, bonfires and fire pits. In fact, July is the leading month for grill-related fires. Most cooking accidents involve a fire accelerant, like charcoal lighter fluid, or a backflash from a leaky gas grill or jet that’s been left on too long.
Burns Come in Many Forms
According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 19,000 people went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving gas grills or charcoal fires, and nearly half of those patients treated suffered burn injuries. And while it’s true that being “under the influence” can be a factor, a more common cause is a false sense of security.
So often, I hear patients say: ‘But I’ve always done it this way.’ Unfortunately, those previous, accident-free experiences can lead to a lack of caution…and a second or third degree burn.
Nowhere is that more apparent than with home fireworks, the second most frequent source of summertime burns we see at the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Nationwide, almost half of all firework burns affect children.
Fireworks can produce very serious injuries, sometimes even requiring amputation of the fingers. As a six-year-old, I was prohibited from ever using sparklers after a napkin caught fire at a family celebration.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that a seemingly innocent sparkler can reach 1,200°F. For perspective, water’s boiling point is 212°F; glass melts at 900°F.
Fortunately, most burns in the United States are first degree—mild injuries to the superficial layer of the skin, like sunburn, that can be safely treated at home.
But up to 500,000 Americans each year need medical care for more serious burns that can be debilitating and even deadly.
LISTEN: Dr. Shupp discusses common causes of summertime burns in this Medical Intel podcast.
To avoid the emergency room and assure a safe summer for you and your family, follow these simple tips:
- Wear short sleeves or roll them up when grilling
- Use long-handled barbecue tools
- Establish a 3-foot “safety zone” around grills and open fires
- Never leave a lit grill unattended
- Be cautious, careful and aware of your surroundings
- Leave the fireworks in the hands of the professionals
On behalf of the entire Burn Center team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we wish you a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday weekend!