What to do if you Experience a Summer Burn

By: Dr. Ross Albright

August 07, 2023

A woman with a red burn on her hand sits holding it in relief

As families spend more time outdoors to enjoy the summer temperatures, it's important to be aware of potential hazards that can lead to burns – be it sunburns, burns sustained while grilling or navigating the hot surfaces often found around pool decks and parks. All these burn types are not only painful but can also cause severe damage to the skin and require immediate medical attention.  

Ross Albright, MD, an emergency care physician, explores effective preventive measures to avoid burns during the summer and discusses when it's essential to seek medical care. 

Stay Sun Safe

While soaking up the sun is a favorite summer pastime for many, it's important to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sunburns not only damage the skin but also increase the risk of more severe burns. 

Follow these tips for staying safe in the sun: 

  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 before heading outdoors and reapply every two hours. 
  • Seek shade during peak hours of sun intensity, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 
  • Wear protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and lightweight, long-sleeved garments. 

Fire and Hot Object Safety

Summer is full of fun outdoor activities like BBQs, campfires and fireworks, all of which can pose a fire hazard if not handled carefully.  

To prevent burns caused by fires: 

  • Maintain a safe distance from open flames and grills and always use oven mitts or potholders when handling hot objects. 
  • Keep a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit readily available. 
  • Keep children away from hot objects and fireworks and educate them about the dangers of touching or playing with them. 

Hot Surface Safety 

Asphalt, metal slides and surfaces around the pool retain heat and are likely to be significantly hotter than other materials such as a wooden picnic table to grassy pathway (these can still be hot too!). So, it's crucial to be cautious around these materials to prevent burns: 

  • Use caution when near hot surfaces surrounding water sources, such as pool decks or metal slides. 
  • Always wear shoes when walking on hot surfaces such as asphalt, concrete and even sand. 
  • Ensure that playground equipment such as slides and swings are cool to the touch before your kiddos start climbing around.  

Recognizing Severity of Burns and Seeking Care 

Despite our best efforts, burns can still occur. It's essential to know when a burn requires medical attention: 

  • First-degree burns, characterized by redness, pain and minor swelling, can typically be treated at home with cool water and over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). 
  • Second-degree burns, which may cause blistering and more intense pain, should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
  • Third-degree burns, indicated by charring or blackened skin, deep tissue damage or burns that cover a large area, require immediate emergency care

Preventing burns during the summer is paramount to enjoying a safe and enjoyable season. By following these tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of burns and ensure prompt medical attention when necessary. Stay informed, stay safe and have a burn-free summer! 

If you or someone you know experiences a burn, it's important to seek immediate medical care.


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