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Summer Weather Brings More than Sunburns -- Youths and Fire Hazards


November 14, 2005  |  

The warm weather of summer brings an unfortunate increase in some familiar kinds of patients to the UC San Diego Regional Burn Center—those with serious sunburns as well as severe burns caused by contact with hot coals buried in the sand at the beach.

The UC San Diego Regional Burn Center will treat children and adults with severe sunburns during the next four months. Even if the weather is not extremely hot, or on overcast days, sunburn can occur. Additionally, sun rays can reflect off the water causing increased sensitivity to sun.

“Children and adults should avoid falling asleep at the beach and always apply sunscreen of 25 SPF or higher to prevent sunburn,” said Daniel D. Lozano, MD, UC San Diego Clinical Director of Burn Care.

“Additionally, the incidence of children, as well as adults, stepping or falling on burning coals at the beach and bay has increased dramatically over the years,” said Lozano. “Kids hit the beach running and before they realize it they are walking or falling on hot coals left buried under the sand. Parents should always keep a watchful eye on toddlers and children, and adults should be cautious of fire rings or fire pits and avoid these areas when playing at the beach.”

Hot coals buried in the sand can retain an intense heat for up to 24 hours. Anyone who walks or falls on the hot coals can be severely burned and can sustain life-threatening burns. Hot coals should always be disposed of in designated containers at the beach.

Fireworks also pose a danger. Although they are illegal in San Diego County, fireworks are fascinating for young children. Fireworks, especially purchased in Mexico, are extremely dangerous. Each year the Burn Center treats patients who have suffered fire-works related injury. Small fireworks called “poppers” can explode in a child’s pocket and set the child’s clothes on fire and result in a serious burn.

This year the UC San Diego Regional Burn Center celebrates 31 years of specialized medical care and rehabilitation for burned patients in San Diego and Imperial counties. The UC San Diego Regional Burn Center has treated more than 5,700 patients since established and treated more than 440 patients in 2003. The Burn Center staff is a team of highly trained physicians, nurses and health professionals dedicated to the care of burn patients.

Recognizing Burn Severity

Degree How Much Damage How It Looks & Feels How It Heals How It Might Happen
1st part of the 1st layer
pink, red, dry, and painful some peeling over a
no scar
2nd some damage to second layer
blisters (should be removed)
skin under blisters is weepy
pink and painful
new epidermis grows
in 1 to 3 weeks
hot water, tea, coffee
flash fires
soups, hot foods
3rd all of the skin is destroyed blisters may be present
color varies (red, pale pink
white or tan)
needs skin grafting
unless very small
grease scalds
roofing tar
flames, hot coals

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Eileen Callahan

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