West Hills Hospital
February 10, 2020

The Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital shares expertise during Burn Awareness Week

San Fernando Valley health care facility offers insights about causes and prevention of burns

Burn Awareness Week is recognized from Feb. 2-8, 2020, and to help spread awareness and promote safety, The Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center is sharing a few key facts everyone should know about burns.

Prevalence of burns

According to the American Burn Association, more than 450,000 individuals are seen in emergency departments, clinics or physician’s offices for the treatment of a burn injury each year in the United States and Canada. Of these, approximately 4,500 die as a direct result of their injuries, and many more die from burn-related infections. However, the majority of these injuries are preventable.

Causes and prevention

Burns can be caused by contact with fire or flame, as well as hot surfaces or liquids. In addition, exposure to sunlight, electricity, radiation or certain chemicals can lead to burn injuries.

Steps you can take to avoid some of the most common burn injuries include wearing protective clothing when working with heat/flame or chemicals, unplugging electrical items when not in use and keeping them away from water, using sunscreen before going outside, turning pot handles toward the rear of the stove, and avoiding loose fitting clothing when cooking over flames. Help protect children from burns by keeping hot liquids and pans out of reach, supervising them closely around heat sources and electrical products, storing chemicals out of reach, and covering unused electrical outlets with safety caps.

Types of burns

First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin, making it painful and red. Second-degree burns affect the outer layer of skin and part of the next layer, causing redness, swelling and blisters. Third-degree burns destroy the first two layers of skin and may reach the innermost layer, resulting in a white or blackened burn site. Fourth-degree burns go through all layers of the skin and may even reach muscle and bone, leaving no feeling in the area as nerve endings are destroyed.

Burn treatment

When treating a burn, the first thing to do is stop the burning process. Damage to the skin will continue as long as the burn area is hot. Cool the burned area as soon as possible under cool (not cold or icy) running water for at least 20 minutes. Do not touch the burned area, pop any blisters, apply creams or oils without consulting a doctor, or put on any adhesive, sticky or fluffy dressing.

While first-degree burns can often be treated at home, serious burns may require emergency medical attention. Third- and fourth-degree burns are always an emergency, and even with first- and second-degree burns, the larger the burn area, the more dangerous it is. Seek medical attention any time there are signs of infection or if the burn seems to be getting worse over time. Keep in mind that burns to the face, eyes, ears, hands or feet are more likely to cause permanent damage if not treated.

The Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital offers 24/7 access to a burn nurse expert. To reach the 24/7 help line, call 818-676-4177.