Burn Safety Tips for the Fourth of July

Family with sparklersSome of my best summer memories have come from the Fourth of July—grilling out with my family, eating apple pie and, of course, watching fireworks at night. Being a burn specialist, however, has given me a new perspective on the dangers of fireworks and other explosives, which can lead to severe long-term injuries if used improperly.

Burns fall into three main categories. First degree burns, which affect the first layer of skin, often result in red, dry skin with no blisters. Second degree burns, however, penetrate deeper, and may result in swelling or blistering. Third degree burns, the most severe burns, move all the way through the skin, and are often not painful because they destroy the nerve endings.

Burn care has come a long way in recent years, leading to improved skin grafts and reconstruction which can, oftentimes, restore normal function to severe burn victims. For third degree burns especially, call 9-1-1 immediately. For most minor (first degree) burns, however, simple care at home immediately following injury is an easy and safe way to treat the injury:

Stop the cause of the burn

Removing the source of the burn prevents further injury. Remove any burning clothing; stop, drop and roll to put out active flames; and get the victim away from any scalding liquids.

Take off any constrictive items

As severe burns tend to swell quickly, be sure to get any tight jewelry, clothing or belts off of the victim immediately

Cool and protect the burn

Place the burn under running water, or apply compressive bandages to the burned area. Cover the area with dry, sterile bandages to prevent infection. While you should avoid using any ointments on the burn, you may take over-the-counter pain medicine to ease discomfort.

Seek medical attention

If pain persists, or if the area becomes infected, visit your physician. He or she may assign antibiotics or pain medication.

Remember, for severe burns, seek medical attention immediately. By following proper precautions around fire, and practicing good first aid following a burn, you can avoid long-term injury.

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