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Johns Hopkins Health - Burn Notice

Summer 2010
Issue No. 9

Burn Notice

Date: July 20, 2010

kid in sun

Summertime, and the living is easy. But watch out for burn hazards, especially when it comes to your kids

Q: What are the most common burn injuries during the summer?
Burn hazards are around us year-round, says Johns Hopkins pediatric burn unit physician Dylan Stewart, M.D. But there are particular threats that include sun exposure, campfires, grills and fireworks. Though burn injuries don’t discriminate, kids are moving targets and can be more susceptible to the risks. Interestingly, the most common burn injury during the summer is also the most common all year long: That’s hot water in the home, usually in the bathtub and especially with smaller children who aren’t being properly supervised.

Q: What’s the best advice for avoiding summer burns?
Parents, guardians and caregivers of small children should understand the hazards and know how to respond. Keep your smallest, least-mobile kids out of the sun. Make sure the water temperature in your home is no more than 120 degrees. Teach your kids about the potential dangers of grills and campfires. And make sure they know the essential “stop, drop and roll” rule: If they’ve caught fire, they should literally stop, drop and roll on the ground to extinguish the flames.

Q: What should I know about kids and sunburn?
Babies who are less than a year old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Period. They can’t tell you they’re too hot or it’s too bright. They’re not born with a developed skin protection system either, so they burn more quickly and easily. Also, young children have more skin relative to their overall body mass than adults do. That means if they do get a sunburn, it will be more serious than a similar-sized burn in an adult.

Q: I’ve heard I should put butter on a serious burn. Is that true?
No, absolutely not. The best immediate action for burns is to remove clothing from the burned area and treat with cool water or compresses. Don’t use ice, as this can actually cause frostbite and injury to the surrounding tissue. If the burn is more than the size of your child’s palm, or it’s on the hands, feet, face or genitalia, you should go immediately to a hospital. In the case of sunburn, you shouldn’t apply salves such as butter or petroleum jelly-those will just make the symptoms worse. Cool compresses work here, too. You should contact your doctor if your infant has been sunburned or your child’s sunburn is accompanied by high fever, blisters or severe pain.

Protect your children from burn injuries with advice from Johns Hopkins experts. For appointments, call 877-546-1872 or visit