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Burn injuries are not a thing of the past.

When it comes to pediatric burns, many parents have a false sense of security. The nature of our modern lifestyles, combined with effective awareness campaigns, tend to give parents the illusion that burn injuries have become a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, this simply isn't true. According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), burn injuries remain the leading cause of accidental death in the home for children 14 and under. Toddlers and young children are burned more often by scalding or flames, whereas older children are at a higher risk of chemical and electrical burns. Yet 65% of all burns in children result from scalds.

According to the CDC, during the last 30 years, burn injuries for children and adults living in the United States have decreased by 50%. This decline is largely a result of public awareness, federal regulations concerning the flame-retardation of materials, and the increased use of smoke detectors.

Despite these measures, burn injuries are the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States after car accidents for both children and adults.

The Dangers of Winter Comforts

There is a cyclical increase in pediatric scalding by hot liquids that demonstrates a seasonal correlation. Both adults and children consume more hot liquids during cooler weather, which increases the incidence of children being accidentally scalded.

Prevent Burns in Your Home

According to the CDC and the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, 75% of all pediatric burns are preventable.

Though vigilance is required year-round to prevent burn injuries, wintertime brings many increased risk factors. Practice these burn preventative measures in your home to decrease your family's risk:

* Never hold a child while drinking a hot liquid.

* Always test soups, hot chocolate, tea and other hot liquids before serving them to your children.

* Always remember to thoroughly stir all foods warmed in a microwave. They can heat unevenly, and may contain pockets of extreme heat.

* Sauces and gravies can cause internal scalds. Many cases of children being burned with spaghetti and cheese sauces are reported annually.

* If you have a toddler or small child at home, avoid using a tablecloth. The child may pull on the corner of the tablecloth causing potentially hot objects to fall on them.

* When traveling, know hotel and motel exits in case of fire.

* Before using a chimney or fireplace during the winter months, have them cleaned.

* Do not overload electrical outlets.

* Check alternative heating devices for safe operation (electric space heaters or kerosene heaters).

Follow these tips for Christmas tree safety:

* Check tree lights and decorations for potential problems.

* Keep trees well-watered at all times.

* Unplug all lights when leaving home for any length of time.

* Do not block an exit with holiday decorations.

Burn prevention should be a year-round, on-going effort in your home. Begin practicing these tips and you can drastically reduce your family's vulnerability to fire and burns throughout the year:

* Periodically check electrical plugs and cords for dirt or fraying.

* Keep appliances unplugged when not in use.

* When working with a hot liquid, hot oil or a deep fryer, keep your child safely away from the source.

* Keep pot handles turned inward on the stovetop, and away from the edge of the stove.

* If you are cooking on the stove or in the microwave, do not hold your child as you remove items from these appliances.

* Teach your child what to do in case of a house fire. Practice your home exit strategy, and teach older children how to put out a fire.

* Teach your child fire exit strategies for multiple scenarios: home, school and public places such as theatres, concert hails, etc. Teach them to always make note of fire exits in public places.

* Turn down your water heater to 120[degrees] F.

* Store harmful chemicals and cleaners in an area that is not accessible to children.

* Teach your child to stay away from lighters and matches. Keep these items also out of your child's reach.

* Always discard smoking materials in a deep or wet receptacle.

* Before placing a child or infant in a bathtub, check the water temperature with your hand.

* During a power outage, use flashlights instead of candles.

Warm weather brings its own increase in accidental burn incidence. Be sure to remember these important tips when temperatures rise in your area:

* Encourage children to wear shoes in the summer, and to avoid walking barefooted on hot asphalt or hot sand.

* Make sure your child uses sun block whenever in the sun.

* Before using barbecues or grills, clean them of grease buildup and use lighter fluid sparingly.

* Supervise children near fireworks.

The single most reliable method to promote fire safety in your home is the use and maintenance of smoke detectors. Above all else, remember to do the following:

* Check smoke detector batteries and clean your smoke detector often.

* Smoke detector batteries should be changed twice a year. Choose two dates that are easy to remember such as when you change your clocks, or on a summer or winter holiday.

Burn Types and Their Treatment

When it comes to burns, many parents simple don't know the latest recommended forms of treatment. Most of the remedies and treatments taught to us as children are either ineffective or detrimental. Discard everything you ever learned about treating burns, and memorize these things instead:

* DO NOT apply ointment, butter, ice, medications, fluffy cotton dressings, adhesive bandages, cream, oil spray or any household remedy to a burn.

* DO NOT allow the burn to become contaminated--avoid breathing or coughing near the burned area.

* DO NOT disturb blisters or dead skin.

* DO NOT apply cold compresses or ice bags.

* DO NOT immerse a severe burn in cold water--this can cause shock.

* DO NOT place a pillow under the victim's head if there is an airway burn. Airway burns inevitably swell, and you must try to keep the victim's airway open--lay them down flat.

First-Degree Burns

First-degree burns are red and very sensitive to touch. They involve minimal tissue damage only to the top layer of skin, the epidermis. A first- degree burn causes pain, redness and swelling, and the skin will appear blanched when light pressure is applied to it. It can present peeling and/or white, charred skin, and in some cases, produce symptoms of shock. A sunburn is a good example of a first-degree burn.

Treatment of First-Degree Burns

* If the skin is not broken, run cool water over the burned area or soak it in a cool water bath for five minutes. Do not use ice or ice water. A clean, cold, wet towel will also help reduce pain.

* Cover the burn with a sterile, non-adhesive bandage or clean, lint-free cloth.

* Protect the burn from friction or pressure.

* Use over-the-counter pain medications to reduce pain, inflammation or swelling.

* Most first-degree burns will heal without any further treatment.

Second-Degree Burns

Second-degree burns affect both the outer-layer epidermis and the underlying-layer of skin, the dermis. It causes pain, redness, swelling, and blisters. In the case of second-degree burns, swelling can occur deeper in the skin causing decreased blood flow in the tissue. This can result in the burn becoming a third-degree burn. Presentation of peeling and/or white, charred skin and symptoms of shock are not uncommon.

Symptoms of Shock

Symptoms of shock can vary, particularly in children. Be on the watch for any number of these symptoms:

* Cold sweat

* Weakness

* Irregular breathing

* Chills

* Pale, clammy skin

* Pale or blue-colored lips

* Pale or blue-colored fingernails

* A fast, but weak, pulse

* Nausea

Treatment of Second-Degree Burns

* DO NOT remove burnt clothing unless it comes off easily, but do ensure that the victim is not in contact with burning or smoldering materials.

* Check for breathing, and administer CPR if necessary.

* Cover the burn with a cool, moist, sterile bandage or clean, lint-free cloth--DO NOT use a blanket. For large burns, a sheet is best.

* DO NOT apply any ointments and avoid breaking any blisters.

* If fingers or toes have been burnt, separate them with sterile, non-adhesive bandages.

* Elevate the burned area and protect it from pressure or friction.

* Take steps to prevent shock: lay the victim flat; elevate feet about 12 inches; cover with a coat or blanket.

* Continue to monitor vital signs.

* Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency facility.

Third-Degree Burns

Third-degree burns affect the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. They cause charring of the skin or a translucent, white color, with coagulated blood vessels visible just below the skin surface. Third-degree burns may have areas that are numb, but the person may still complain of pain. This is usually due to second-degree burns surrounding the third-degree burn areas. Third-degree burns will present symptoms of redness, swelling, pain, peeling skin, white and/or charred skin.

Healing from third-degree burns is a very slow process due to the damage caused to tissues and their structures. Third-degree burns usually result in significant scarring, and in some cases, requires skin grafting surgeries.

Treatment of Third-Degree Burns

Initial treatment for third-degree burns is exactly the same procedure as for second-degree burns and needs to be administered until help arrives. Further treatment is specialized, and must be conducted by trained, medical professionals.

Kara Frank is a freelance writer and editor in Baton Rouge, LA.
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Title Annotation:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Author:Frank, Kara
Publication:Pediatrics for Parents
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Previous Article:Proper piercing.
Next Article:Early childhood sleep patterns.

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