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Stay fire smart -- don't get burned

Dear Editor:

When we think of things in our homes that might cause burns, there are some obvious culprits. Curling irons. Stoves. Radiators. Tap water? As surprising as it sounds, it’s true. 

In an effort to prevent scalds and other painful burns, Riley Hospital, Indiana’s State Fire Marshal, and fire departments statewide have teamed up for Fire Prevention to week to help Hoosiers “Stay Fire Smart! Don’t Get Burned.” The public safety campaign, which takes place October 4-10, focuses on burn prevention and treatment, as well as ways to keep your home and family safe from the leading causes of fire. Fire Prevention Week presents an ideal time to sound a collective alarm about the dangers of scald burns to children.  

Each year roughly 3,000 people die as a result of home fires and burns, and more than 200,000 individuals are seen in the nation's emergency rooms for burn injuries. Indiana alone had 78 people killed in home fires in 2008 and fire departments responded to over 6,300 home fires. 

Parents, child care providers, babysitters and extended family members all play an important role in helping to prevent burn injuries. Children are curious, so it is important to remember the following tips:

·        Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned annually by qualified professionals.

·        If you smoke, smoke outside.

·        Keep flammable materials away from light bulbs, light fixtures and lamps.

·        Use flashlights during power outages, not candles.  If you do burn candles indoors, blow them out before leaving the room, and keep them away from things that can burn.

·        Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking.  Many cooking fires start from "unattended" cooking. 

Thousands of emergency room visits are attributed to scalds – injuries caused by hot liquid or steam.  In 2006, an estimated 143 children (newborn-14) required hospitalization, while another 1,675 children received outpatient care due to burn injuries. Scald burns to children are among the most frequent, devastating and traumatic burn injuries admitted to Riley Hospital for Children’s Burn Care Unit.  Most of the young children hospitalized due to scald burns are there from an injury that, in most cases, can be prevented. Anyone who cares for young children, either at home or in a childcare setting, needs to keep in mind the harmful consequences of a scald burn injury. According to the American Burn Association, scald burns are the number one reason for burn-related hospital admissions for children under the age of four, and scald burn injuries make up nearly half of the admissions to Riley’s Burn Unit. 

Firefighters and emergency medical service professionals are the first on the scene for an emergency call when a child has been badly burned due to scalds.  Riley Hospital is there to provide comprehensive care for kids who have sustained a scald burn injury, all the way from intensive care for the acute injury through a slow recovery and rehabilitation process.   

Riley Hospital also launched Kids Scald Fast. Cool It First. – a public awareness campaign designed to remind parents and caregivers that children have thinner skin than adults, which means they scald faster, deeper and at lower temperatures. You can prevent scalding or serious burn injuries to children by doing a few simple things such as cooling foods and liquids that have been cooked, heated or microwaved; creating a safe area in the kitchen for your children to play and be supervised while remaining a safe distance from the stove and sink; turning pot handles inward on your stove so children are not able to reach them, keeping hot food and drinks away from table edges or counters; using cold water before hot water and testing bath water before putting your child into the bath (the safest bathing temperature for most people is 100 degrees F); and finally, adjusting your water heater to 120 degrees F, which is the upper limit for safety. 

Fire Prevention Week is actively supported by fire departments across the country. For 85 years fire departments have observed Fire Prevention Week, making it the longest running public health and safety observance on record.  For more information on Fire Prevention, please visit www.in.gov/dhs or www.nfpa.org.  

Jeff Sperring, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Riley Hospital for Children

James Greeson, Indiana State Fire Marshal, Indiana Department of Homeland Security

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