Hot, Hot, Hot Tips for Summer Burn Prevention

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Roper St. Francis Healthcare Experts Provide Advice for Safe Summer Fun

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It’s that time of year again – the favorite part of the year for school-aged children and adults alike – summer! Too beautiful to stay indoors, many families will spend considerable time soaking up the fun and sun. And while hosts and guests contemplate the great grill debate – gas or charcoal – one thing is clear: summer fun can quickly turn dangerous. Roper St. Francis Healthcare experts encourage parents, vacationers and outdoor enthusiasts to be aware of every-day summer dangers and how to protect themselves from BBQ, sun and firework burns.

Delicious but Dangerous
According to a study conducted by the Health, Patio & Barbecue Association, 82 percent of all U.S. households own a grill or smoker. Of that group, 45 percent reportedly use their grills at least once or twice a week, with increased use in the summer months. Burn and scald injuries are the most common BBQ-related injury.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare emergency services treat an average of 25-30 BBQ-related burns each summer. “Most of the patients we see are avid grillers but there’s always that one time which can be dangerous,” says Dr. Daniel Lewis, MD, of Roper Emergency Physicians, Roper Mount Pleasant Hospital. “After we treat the injury, we recommend that the patient conducts a grilling-area assessment before their next attempt to ensure it’s safe.”

Before you take the helm in front of the grill, follow these tips to avoid BBQ-related burns:

  •     Make sure the grill is positioned on stable, solid ground and is in a well-ventilated area. Smoke from the grill can often cause surface burns on the face and arms.
  •     Use extra-long tongs to flip and turn food on the grill. This will prevent burns or scalding on wrists and forearms.
  •     Never pour lighter fluid or fire accelerant on an open flame or smoking grill.
  •     Keep children away from the grill at all times.
  •     Always use hot pads or mitts to open and lift grill tops, even if the grill has heat-resistant handles.

Fuse Safety into Firework Fun
“We also see a lot of injuries and burns related to fireworks,” says Dr. Lewis. “As beautiful as they may be, they are extremely dangerous and must be handled with caution.” When the weather is hot, the fireworks are sizzling. Two out of three firework-related injuries occur during the end of June and the end of July and more than half of those reported injuries are among people under the age of 20.***

“Simple burns related to fireworks can be treated with pure aloe and over-the-counter pain medication. If a burn blisters immediately, we urge patients to seek medical care as soon as possible to reduce risk of infection and permanent scarring,” says Dr. Lewis.

Before those “ooohs and ahhhs” turn into “ows,” follow these basic tips for firework safety:

  •     Only use fireworks in an open, spacious area and never close to homes, vehicles or propane tanks.
  •     Follow the directions on the packaging explicitly.
  •     Never purchase illegal fireworks as the safety labels may be incorrect or missing.
  •     Never let children handle fireworks directly. They sometimes lack the coordination to handle sparklers and other hand-held fireworks.

The Skin-ny on Sun Protection
Health experts say it every year: “wear sunscreen whenever you are outdoors” but it’s becoming increasingly important as people spend more time outside in the summer months. Each year there are more new skin cancer cases than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined.* Just this past spring, Roper St. Francis Healthcare offered free skin cancer screenings to residents of the Lowcountry. Out of 160 screenings, eight cases (one in 20) of melanoma were discovered.

“The use of regular sun protection with clothing and sunscreen dramatically reduces your cancer risk. Always use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 and preferably 30,” says Dr. Todd Schlesinger, MD, FAAD of Dermatology and Laser Center of Charleston. “It is fast and easy to get a second- or third-degree sunburn after only 15 minutes or less in the sun.”

Don’t Feel the Burn
Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will develop basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma (the two most common types of skin cancer) at least once in their lifetime.** Follow these lesser known tips to stay out of that statistic:

  •     Know your medications. Some medications, even ibuprofen, can increase an individual’s sensitivity to the sun.
  •     Choose your sunscreen wisely. Select a product with both UVA and UVB protection or is labeled “broad spectrum”. Any product less than SPF 15 is not proven to reduce the risk of skin cancer or early aging.
  •     Apply lip balm frequently. Painful fever blisters are preventable.
  •     Avoid being in direct sun during the peak high exposure hours of 10 AM and 3 PM.
  •     Eat your vegetables! Foods rich in beta carotene and lycopene can increase the skin’s natural ability to resist UV radiation.
  •     Protect your eyes with 99 to 100 percent UVA protection. Melanoma can affect the eyes.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare is available in several convenient locations around the Lowcountry – West Ashley, James Island, Kiawah Island, downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant. Its physicians urge families to know the location of the nearest emergency care facility before an emergency occurs. To find the location nearest you, visit http://www.rsfh.com

*American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures, 2010.
** National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2009/2010
*** U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Greene MA, Joholske J 2008 Fireworks Annual Report.

The Roper St. Francis Healthcare Mission:
Healing All People with Compassion, Faith and Excellence
Roper St. Francis Healthcare is the South Carolina Lowcountry’s only private, not-for-profit health care system. The 657-bed system consists of 90 facilities and services in seven counties. Member hospitals include Roper Hospital, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, Mount Pleasant Hospital and Roper Rehabilitation Hospital. Plans to build a hospital in Berkeley County are in progress. Roper St. Francis Physician Partners is a comprehensive network of more than 180 physicians that covers a complete range of primary care and 20 subspecialties.

With more than 5,100 employees, Roper St. Francis Healthcare is Charleston’s largest non-governmental, private employer. Its medical staff includes nearly 800 physicians representing every medical specialty. Ranked #41 among the Top 100 Integrated Health Networks in the nation, Roper St. Francis Healthcare recently earned 96 National Awards recognizing high levels of patient, physician and employee satisfaction. In October 2010, Roper St. Francis was named among Modern Healthcare’s prestigious list of “Top 100 Places to Work.” Roper St. Francis Healthcare was additionally listed among the Top 25 Connected Healthcare Systems in 2010. In 2010, the organization contributed more than 78,312 hours of staff time and $47.3 million to benefit the community, serving nearly 264,000 community residents.

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Colleen Cooney
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