Summer safety reminders from the Clark Burn Center
Host Amber Smith: Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York invites you to be "The Informed Patient" with the podcast that features experts from Central New York's only academic medical center. I'm your host, Amber Smith. As Central New Yorkers begin to enjoy summer weather, I'm with Tamara Roberts from the Clark Burn Center at Upstate with some reminders about safety. Ms. Roberts is the burn program manager. Welcome back to The Informed Patient. Ms. Roberts.
Tamara Roberts: Thank you for having me here.
Host Amber Smith: Now, because some people like to celebrate with fireworks for the 4th of July and other summertime gatherings, I'd like to first ask you about how frequently you see patients at the burn center who were injured by fireworks.
Tamara Roberts: We don't see a lot of patients that are admitted inpatient. They're more often seen in our outpatient setting because they're not as major of burn injuries. What we see are a lot more of the injuries that are associated with the activities that go around the firework events and everything that kind of happens. So those are all different types of injuries that are occurring during the 4th of July weekend and things like that.
Host Amber Smith: Are they burn related?
Tamara Roberts: Yes, they are burn related injuries. It can be things such as injuries related to falling into bonfires, applying fuel or other combustible things into a fire and then having it explode, and people are getting injured that way. Unfortunately, sometimes people will drink alcohol and trip and fall into a fire. So we really are seeing a lot of the injuries that are associated around the holidays, not only with fireworks, but also all the other activities that kind of go along with it. Lots of sparkler injuries we do see on our kiddos.
Host Amber Smith: Sparklers -- those are very appealing, because those people hold in their hand, right? And you light the tip?
Tamara Roberts: Yeah. Yeah. The sparklers are the ones that typically the kids will hold it, and it has all the nice little, pretty sparkles that goes, and they can whip 'em around. People think that they're safe for kids, but those can get up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. So they are really hot, and if the child were to touch where it was lit, it can give a very deep, deep burn to these children. And if they're dropped on the ground and they step on it, they can get burns that way as well. So we suggest keeping a bucket of water. If parents are allowing the kids to use the sparklers, have a bucket of water out there so that when they're done utilizing the sparklers that they're putting them into that bucket of water.
Host Amber Smith: In general, the fireworks that people like to do at their homes, do you think those have become safer over the years? Because years ago they were, they seemed to be the source of some really significant injury.
Tamara Roberts: No, I don't believe they've become safer. We still strongly urge people to leave fireworks to the pros. They have made some that are legal to purchase in the state of New York, but they're still very dangerous, and they can have complications. We're not the only burn center in the state of New York. And so maybe in our area, we're not seeing those injuries, but definitely in some of the other burn centers, they've seen real significant injuries. Things that you can buy are bottle rockets and fountains, and those types of things, you have shooting flames coming out, and they're extremely dangerous. They can catch clothes on fire. They can, um, cause a lot of damage. There are "kid-friendly fireworks," is what they call them, and people will buy them because they think they're safe. They're like the snakes and the little smoke bombs. And because they're popular with the younger kids, and kids aren't really familiar with how to handle them, there's a lot of injuries that happen every year. About 5% of all your firework injuries are actually from ones that are designed for children. So, they're not really that safe.
Host Amber Smith: Are there instructions that people need to follow to make them safer?
Tamara Roberts: There are instructions, and most of them say that once something is lit, you're not supposed to hold onto it. You're supposed to set it down and move away. There shouldn't be only one person there lighting it, and everybody else should be a safe distance away from it. And you definitely need to make sure that children are not around when you're lighting it, and they should never be faced toward anybody. You should be in an area that is not heavily populated with homes and burnable debris and things like that, because stuff can catch on fire.
Host Amber Smith: In terms of other potential burn injuries, this is the time of year people are having, maybe, camp fires. What mistakes have you seen people make that could be avoided around campfires?
Tamara Roberts: I think, educating their kids on how to stay away from a campfire, or if they're cooking on the campfire -- maybe toasting marshmallows or things like that -- how to be a safe distance away. Making sure that you are not consuming alcoholic beverages when around a campfire, because accidents happen really quickly. And, they can be very detrimental, not only to adults, but also to children. So we wanna make sure that we're being safe. And when we're putting the fires out, we need to make sure that they're applying water and putting that out. And the other thing is never put gasoline or any other igniter onto a campfire, because it causes severe injuries. You get that explosive fire, and it will cause a flash burn.
Host Amber Smith: If someone suffers a burn from the open flames or a flash burn at a campfire, what is the first aide that you would advise?
Tamara Roberts: Immediately stop that burning process. If they're on fire, they need to stop, drop, and roll to get that fire out. And then they need to cool it with lukewarm water. So if they have that ability, they need to, for at least five minutes, be cooling it with lukewarm water. Never use ice because ice actually can cause further injury to the tissues of the skin and make your burn worse. So we, um, strongly discourage that. And then depending on how severe it is, they may need to go get treatment.
Host Amber Smith: How would they know if they need to go to the hospital?
Tamara Roberts: If they have open tissue, or blistering, and it's a pretty big area, I would say if it's covering their entire forearm or even a hand that may be like a whiteish color, it could be very severe. It's better to go get checked out than to not get checked out. Err on the side of safety.
Host Amber Smith: This is Upstate's "The Informed Patient" podcast. I'm your host, Amber Smith talking with Tamara Roberts. She's the burn program manager at Upstate's Clark Burn Center.
Now grills and smokers are popular in the summer. Do you ever see people who have severe burns from touching the grates or the charcoal?
Tamara Roberts: We've seen where we've had some of the kids who will grab the grates on some of the grills, as well as just bumping up against the grill. So we always try to provide education, making sure that we teach about safe space and just like we do when we talk about in the kitchen, having that safe area, at least three feet around a stove, we would like to have you teach your children the same thing about when you're cooking with a grill. And also with grills, we see -- you know, propane grills are terrible because you go to light them, and you've got that fuel on, and you've got the cover closed, so you have to think about those gases that are in there. And people get down in there, and you can get a flash burn from that. And also, thinking about where your grill is. We've seen structure fires, their houses catch on fire because they're doing it on a porch and leaving it unattended, and that can be really unsafe. So, it's better to take it down on the yard, away from your house. And always make sure you are watching the grill because you never know if grease is gonna drip down and cause some type of a fire. And you always want to make sure that if you're opening it, because you think there's a fire, be very careful with opening it. And, if it's not something that you can put out, call the fire department. Don't be a hero.
Host Amber Smith: Now what about sunburns? Does the burn unit ever get patients with sunburns that are so severe that they need hospitalization?
Tamara Roberts: In my 12 years here, I have had just two -- one was a child and one was an adult. A lot of times it's with photosensitivity medications. That's those medicines that we take and it says right on there, don't be out in the sun. And your skin gets burned so badly that it actually causes a deep what we call a second-degree burn. So there's blisters, and the skin is coming off. So people really need to remember that you apply sunscreen, and it's not just once. You have to apply it liberally multiple times throughout the day, because the sun really does wreak havoc on our skin, and it can cause burns really easily. And that's adults, that's kids, and we just have to really make sure that we're protecting ourselves.
Host Amber Smith: If someone neglects to use sunscreen or adequate sunscreen, and they end up with a severe sunburn, what advice do you have for how to treat it at home?
Tamara Roberts: If it's a severe sunburn and they have open skin, I would recommend that they probably be seen, at least, in the burn clinic to assess the situation and determine if it's very severe. They can wash with soap and water as they normally would. But not being a doctor, I can't say just apply something. It's better for them to go to the burn clinic here at Upstate, or just come to the emergency room to be seen by one of our physicians who can adequately say, "this is what you should do."
Host Amber Smith: So how does one get into the burn clinic or what do they do? Where do they go?
Tamara Roberts: We have a number that they can call right here at Upstate. It's the 315-464-1800. And, push the button that they say for burn clinic. And they can call and get an appointment scheduled right into the clinic. We have clinics four days a week so that people can get in and be seen.
Host Amber Smith: And if someone went to the emergency department, would they eventually, would they put them to the burn clinic or would they take care of them there first, I guess?
Tamara Roberts: If they were to go to the emergency department, they would be assessed by our burn team right there in the emergency department, or one of the physicians trained in burns down there, and they would assess if they need to be admitted into the hospital, if they need further treatment, or if they can just follow up in the burn clinic. And they'll help them make that appointment.
Host Amber Smith: I'd like to ask you about an alert from the American Burn Association, kind of looking ahead to fall and winter. What is this group's new concern?
Tamara Roberts: Well with the colder temperatures coming, there's a big concern that because of the rising cost in fuel that people are going to use alternative methods for heating their homes. And that is very alarming because we know that space heaters andusing our stoves to try to warm up our homes is just so risky. Many times people will have fires in their homes because of space heaters tipping over or clothes getting knocked onto a space heater. And sometimes people have ended up with carbon monoxide poisoning, which is a gas that's colorless and odorless, and we can't see it, smell it, hear it, that we can have overcome us, and we die from it. But people use their stoves to warm their home when they can't afford to put fuel or propane in a tank to heat their home.
Host Amber Smith: Related to that, let's talk about smoke detectors. How many smoke detectors do you need in a house?
Tamara Roberts: Well, the law says that you should have one, at least, in your kitchen, outside your living room. There should be one down in your basement, by the attic. There's supposed to be one outside of every bedroom.
Host Amber Smith: So that's a lot of smoke detectors, perhaps.
Tamara Roberts: It is.
Host Amber Smith: How can people obtain smoke detectors and learn about how to install them properly?
Tamara Roberts: The Clark Burn Center is collaborating with different entities within communities, and we're doing our first what we call "Install the Device and Save a Life" program, and our first one will be at Brady Market (307 Gifford Street) in Syracuse. And what we're doing is we'll be providing at least one smoke detector to each home. And it's also going to provide you information with how you can get more smoke alarms if you need more smoke alarms for your home. It's gonna provide a video link on how to install these. We'll have videos on how to install smoke alarms appropriately. We're also going to have education on fire and burn prevention as well as education on poison control. So we'll be talking about carbon monoxide poisoning, those odorless, tasteless gases that can overcome us in our homes and many other activities for kids to also learn about -- safety and making an escape plan if there were a fire in the home and things. So that'll be happening in July of this year.
Host Amber Smith: And then for future events that the burn center will have representatives at, people can go to Facebook, to the Upstate Health Facebook page, and that's where you're sharing information about the locations that, where you'll be, right?
Tamara Roberts: Yes. Yep. That'll be posted up there, the dates, times, locations that we will be there. Yes.
Host Amber Smith: Well, thank you so much for making time for this interview.
Tamara Roberts: Thank you for having me and letting me educate people.
Host Amber Smith: My guest has been Tamara Roberts. She's the burn program manager at Upstate's Clark Burn Center. "The Informed Patient" is a podcast covering health, science and medicine brought to you by Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, and produced by Jim Howe. Find our archive of previous episodes at Upstate.edu/informed. This is your host, Amber Smith, thanking you for listening.