Tips to avoid painful summer burns

Follow these easy tips to avoid painful summer burns.

Sunscreen is one of the first things we grab when headed outdoors to enjoy pool weather. A sunburn is no fun and also a health hazard as it can cause skin cancer. Sunburns are a common type of burn in the summer months, but there are other burns to be cautious about as well. 

Sara Cross, MD, is an emergency physician at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission and sees more patients coming to the emergency room during the summer for treatment of burns including sunburn and sun poisoning, but also burns caused by grilling, burning leaves, fire pits and fireworks. 

“Each year in the United States, there are approximately 1.25 million burns with 60,000 to 80,000 hospitalizations and 5,500 deaths from burn injuries,” said Dr. Cross. “Age groups at highest risk for burns are zero to two years and 20 to 29 years, and mortality from burns is much higher with advanced age.”

Not all burns require emergency care, but it’s important to recognize those that warrant a trip to the ER. First degree burns are just red and can usually be treated at home depending on size and location. Second degree burns are partial thickness and usually blister. The most severe are third degree burns, where the burn has penetrated entirely through the skin and can cause deeper damage. 

“Emergency care is needed for any burn with full thickness,” said Dr. Cross. “You should also seek emergency treatment for burns on the face, singed nasal or facial hairs, any circumferential burns like those that go all the way around fingers, arms, hands or legs as well as larger burns.” 

Our best prevention against burns is education and having proper equipment on hand in case of an emergency. 

“Review fire safety with kids by teaching them to not throw things into a fire, stand back from fire and avoid running around open flames,” said Dr. Cross. “Remind them about stop, drop and roll. I have seen people with clothing on fire who do not stop, drop and roll and their burns are extensive.” 

Dr. Cross offers some additional tips for burn prevention such as:

  • Hook up a garden hose nearby, especially during the summer months
  • Have at least one fire extinguisher in the house or garage and be sure family members know where to find it and how to use it
  • Teach kids to call 911 in case a parent or supervising adult gets hurt
  • Use a broad-spectrum, PABA-free and oxybenzone-free mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium oxide to protect from UVA and UVB
  • Apply sunscreen to your face, ears, neck, chest and arms every morning
  • Reapply sunscreen all over your body every 60 to 90 minutes when swimming and every 90 minutes to two hours when outdoors
  • Wear a hat for added sunscreen protection
  • If your sunscreen is more than three years old, the FDA suggests tossing it.

“Kids like the spray sunscreen, but lotion provides better protection,” said Dr. Cross. “The agreement at our house is that the first application will be a thick layer of lotion. After that, you can use the sunscreen spray for repeat applications.” 

When you have an emergency, AdventHealth offers fast, comprehensive emergency medical care close to home with four Johnson County locations. And we’re always here – seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Visit AdventHealthKC.com/ER to learn more.