News Home » Top Stories » Avoid a Devastating Accident: Burn Prevention Tips

Around the World

Avoid a Devastating Accident: Burn Prevention Tips

Randy Mancini 188 November 6, 2014

One of the most devastating types of injuries is a burn. Many are so bad they require hospitalization and, unfortunately, this is the time of year when doctors see an increase in burn incidents.

Fortunately, many patients receive top-notch help from the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center. According to director Dr. Bruce A. Cairns, the center is strategically located in the heart of America's "Burn Belt."

"We have a lot of grease fires, house fires, occupational injury, scalds, bonfire-type injuries," he explained. "We just have more of all kinds of injuries that result in needing a burn center, and that's particularly down here in the Southeast."

Prevention Tips - Think Twice!

Cairns said the best burn treatment is actually prevention, and most burns can be prevented by simply thinking twice when you're in a potentially dangerous situation.

For example, if you use a space heater, make sure nothing gets within three feet of it, or it could catch on fire.

"If you're not very mobile and you have a blanket, this can happen in an instant," Cairns said. "Your clothes can catch on fire and that can be very devastating."

Dr. Cairns offers more prevention tips. Watch his entire interview.

The kitchen is often the place where people are burned. For instance, children sometimes are badly burned when they grab handles from pots and pans that are sticking out over the edge of the stovetop range. To prevent this from happening, turn the handles inward.

Grease fires in the kitchen often catch people off-guard, so they do the wrong thing, which can result in a burn.

If grease catches on fire in a pot or pan, do not grab the container and throw the flaming grease outside or in the sink. Instead, cover the container with a lid or a cookie sheet, anything that will cut-off air to the grease fire. Then turn off the heat source, which will likely be the burner or the oven.

Stop Devastating Accidents

Microwave ovens can produce some bad burns, particularly for children and the elderly. Microwaves can super-heat food to temperatures much hotter than we realize.

This is especially true for liquids that are microwaved. Sometimes they do not boil, even though the temperature exceeds the boiling point.

To prevent this, always microwave food in short increments, such as 15, 20 or 30 seconds. Stir the item, if applicable, then carefully test the temperature with your finger, and if it's not warm enough, repeat the process.

Over-filling a turkey fryer can cause devastating burns. Because of this, many fryers have "fill line" imprinted on the pot.

However, to make sure, you can determine how much oil to put in your turkey fryer by testing it first with water. Place your turkey and enough water to cover the turkey in your fryer and draw a line (or make a mental note) where your "fill line" should be.

Also do not use turkey fryers in a house, garage, or any other shelter and keep them away from the sides of these structures.

Many people are burned when they use gasoline to start fires, which Cairns says is a bad idea.

"A lot of our patients think, 'Well, if I don't have lighter fluid or any other appropriate way to start a fire, I'll throw gasoline on. It causes so many problems. You have an explosion, and the patients will end up coming in with a really devastating burn," he said.

Helping Around the World

The North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center is largely funded through donations. Burn care can be very expensive.

Donations to the UNC Malawi burn program
can be made via this website.

The center is one of the largest and busiest burn centers in America, thanks to the generosity of the people who support it. Those donors wanted to take all the expertise offered at the center in North Carolina, and share it with people halfway around the world who desperately need it.

Therefore, the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center opened a burn center in Malawi, Africa, where far too many children die from burns.

Dr. Anthony Charles, a trauma surgeon specializing in helping burn victims, divides his time between the burn centers in North Carolina and Malawi. He said 70 percent of the patients at the Malawi Burn Center are children.

"They live in small, simple, just one room," he explained. "All the cooking is open fire. And so when you have open fire, it's also on the floor and people carry their babies on their backs. When they bend over, children might fall in."

"When children are playing, they might fall in," he continued. "Sometimes at night when you think everybody's gone to bed, a child might want to go to the bathroom, and may accidentally fall into the fire pit."

Dr. Charles talks more about what is happening at the Malawi Burn Center. Watch the entire interview.

Charles said almost all the patients at the Malawi Burn Center are suffering from flame burns that are excruciatingly painful.

"It's just like your entire skin peeling off," he said. "All the raw nerves are now exposed, and even just wind blowing across your skin, it is incredibly painful. The function of the skin is to keep fluids in, and so you lose that. You get dehydrated very quickly, and that's why patients die."

A big thrust of the hospital is training Malawians to take the reins.

"Us as Americans will never be able to fix all of the problems everywhere in the world. We just cannot do that. But to empower the locals to fix their own problems is the way to go," Charles said.

So whether in Malawi, Africa, or here in America, the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Centers are saving lives and minimizing the pain and disfigurement of one of the worst kinds of injuries.