We all get caught up in the fun of summer—setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July, hitting the beach, camping and riding motorcycles. But even if you’re taking care, burns still can happen—whether from fireworks, losing track of time in the sun, road rash or another type of mishap.
How to treat a summer burn
According to Sheryl Mourey, critical care administrative director at St. Joseph Hospital and St. Joseph Regional Burn Center, the critical steps are:
Stop the burning. Remove the element that’s causing the burn. Get out of the sun, take off the burned clothing or brush off the campfire embers.
Cool the area with tepid water. Don’t use ice. Doing so risks damaging the sensitive skin underneath.
If there’s blistering or sloughing of the skin, wrap the affected area in a clean, dry towel and head to the emergency room. You should also head to the ER if the area the burn covers is more than five percent of the person’s body (about five palm-sized areas), or if it occurred on the face or neck because subsequent swelling can close off the airway.
If it’s not immediately blistering, hydrate the wound by applying a lotion with aloe or some kind of a gel. (These have cooling properties.) Keep the area hydrated with lotion and covered, and help your body heal from the inside as well by increasing your intake of fluids and protein. Elevating the burned area, if possible, will reduce the swelling.
Mourey warns that if a burn turns white but doesn’t hurt, that’s actually a bad sign. Get to the emergency room! In this instance chances are it’s a deep wound that has burned through the nerves in the immediate area. Other signs of concern include a burn that encircles a limb because subsequent swelling can restrict blood flow, or a burn that covers a major joint because the healing process will pull the skin tightly across the joint area.
For more information on how to evaluate and treat summer burns, call St. Joseph Regional Burn Center at 260.425.3573.