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Memorial Weekend: Sun, Fun & Safety


May 25, 2007  |  

On this Memorial Weekend, University of California, San Diego Regional Burn Center is joining San Diego Lifeguards and The Burn Institute in reminding our community to enjoy summer sun and festivities safely.

Hot Coals

Hot coals covered by sand can retain an intense heat for up to 24 hours.  That’s not what kids are thinking about when they grab a towel, a water toy and head for the water.  Parents need to keep a watchful eye on toddlers and children as they run and play on the sand.  All adults should be cautious of fire rings or fire pits and avoids these areas. 

Jason McSweeney, N.P.

Jason McSweeney, N.P., of the UCSD Regional Burn Center speaks to the media, along with San Diego Lifegaurds and Burn Institute representatives

Anyone who walks or falls on the hot coals can be severely burned and a child can sustain life-threatening burns.  Hot coals should always be disposed of in designated containers at the beach or bay.

If a child is burned by hot coals, immediately cool the area but DO NOT use ice.  Never apply ice to a burn.  Jason McSweeney, N.P. (nurse practitioner), from the Regional Burn Center at UC San Diego Medical Center recommends using “…cold water to cool the burn and, at the same time, wash away the sand and debris.  If there is time, apply an antibiotic ointment, but get right to the Burn Center.”

Sun and Skin

The UC San Diego Regional Burn Center expects to treat numerous children and adults with severe sunburns during the summer season. 

Many people doze off while lying in the sun at the beach, by the bay or the pool.  Even if the weather is not extremely hot, severe sunburn can occur on gloomy days due to the intensity of the ultraviolet rays. And, reflected off the water, the sun is even more intense and can lead to more serious burns.

“Most burns caused by the sun are first degree burns,” says McSweeney.  “But each year, we see at least a dozen cases where the patient is burned so badly that it begins to blister.  A handful of those are admitted to the Burn Center for in-patient care.” 

The UC San Diego Medical Center experts recommend wearing sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum,” with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, preferably 25.  That provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.  Apply the sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.  Re-apply at least every 2 hours.

It is generally recommended that children of all ages be kept out of strong, prolonged sunlight; however, sunscreen can be safely used from age six months forward.  Children younger than six months should be kept out of prolonged, intense sunlight.  If for some reason it is unavoidable for an infant to be in the sunlight, sunscreen is probably safe at any age.

Sun & Sight

Sunglasses are sunscreens for the eyes.  Without sunglasses, the eyes are unprotected from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun.  Sunglasses can be the main factor in saving your eyes from sight-ending diseases such as macular degeneration.  UCSD experts recommend sunglasses for children and adults.


With the Fourth of July around the corner, remember the dangers of fireworks, which are illegal in San Diego, for good reason.  From small “poppers” that can fit in the pocket, to more extravagant fireworks brought illegally into the county, the injuries caused by improper use or accidents can be severe. 

“We typically see between six and a dozen fireworks-related injuries each year and they’re usually pretty devastating,” says McSweeney. 

It’s best to enjoy officially sponsored fireworks displays put on by licensed pyrotechnicians, and avoid the risk of burns, injury and fires from handling illegal fireworks at home.

UCSD Regional Burn Center burn safety quick tips: burn safety quick tips:

  1. Use sun block whenever you are in the sun.
  2. Store flammable liquids safely.
  3. Watch for hot tar and coals on the beach, and discard your own coals in a designated receptacle.
  4. Never leave a fire unattended.
  5. Never play games near a fire pit or campfire.
  6. Never use sand to extinguish a campfire. Sand insulates heat.
  7. Douse all campfires with water.

Did You Know…?

  1. 30% of patients admitted to UCSD Regional Burn Center are children
  2. Fire and burn injuries are the second leading cause of accidental death in children ages one to four.
  3. A child’s skin is thinner, so the burn is faster and deeper than for adults.
  4. 80% of burn injuries occur in and around the home.
  5. Temperatures greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit can cause a burn in 3 seconds, deep enough to require surgery.
  6. Hot liquids are a major cause of burn injury to children.

What To Do…?

  1. Do not put ice on small burns.  Use cool water, and in the event of a serious burn, immerse the affected area in a bath of cool water.
  2. Always discard smoking materials in a deep or wet receptacle.
  3. Keep matches out of reach of children.

UC San Diego Regional Burn Center History

UC San Diego Regional Burn Center has served the San Diego and Imperial Counties with state-of-the-art care to victims of burn injury, support to families and friends, community education, emergency medical personnel training, research and the advancement of burn care. Each year UC San Diego Medical Center admits approximately 450 burn patients and hundreds more are treated as outpatients.

Please remember:  Burn injuries can be serious.   In case of a serious burn injury, call 911 for an emergency response.

Media Contact: Kimberly Edwards, 619-543-6163,

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