How to Treat Fire Pit Burn Injuries

| August 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Cool summer and autumn evenings often mean the chance to sit outside with your family gathered around a warm fire. This is a very common scene as millions of Americans have joined the trend of having a fire pit in their backyards. These small self-contained wood or gas fires can provide hours of enjoyment, but at the same time they are responsible for thousands of fire pit burn injuries each year.

Fire Pit Burns Are Far Too Common

Of all the injuries caused each year as the result of having a backyard fire pit, burns are the ones seen most frequently. While there seems to be a large number of adults being treated in emergency room for burn injuries from fire pits, the number of children being seen is on the rise. There are three basic types of burn injuries associated with this type of fire:

  • Contact injuries from touching the outer container.
  • Contact injuries from failing to wear leather gloves and touching hot fire tools.
  • Flammable chemical burns from pouring accelerants on the fire.

As with any type of burn, the level of injury is directly related to the time of contact, the temperature of the fire, and the specific type of injury. For example burning fuel will do more widespread damage, but may not burn as deeply as coming into contact with a piece of red hot metal. There are three very distinct degrees of burns.

The result of being burned by pouring gasoline on a fire pit, viewer discretion advised:

Three Degrees of Burns

1. First Degree Burns

These are the most common type of fire pit burn. They generally result from momentary contact with a hot surface. They are identified as having only the outer layer of the person’s skin being burned. However the burn does not penetrate beyond the first layer. Symptoms include:

  • The outer skin is likely to be red (think of sunburn).
  • In many cases the area surround the burn will swell.
  • Many people experience at least some discomfort or pain.

2. Second Degree Burns

This type of burn occurs when the person’s outer layer of skin has been completely burned through and the second layer has been burned. Symptoms include:

  • Blisters will develop where the skin is burned.
  • The skin will have a darker red, blotchy appearance.
  • The person will be in significant amount of pain and major swelling.

3. Third Degree Burns

Third degree burn injuries from fire pits are ranked as among the most serious of burns. The burn will penetrate multiple layers of the person’s skin. Much of the tissue damage is permanent, there may also be damage to muscles, fat tissue, and bones.

  • Skin may be either pure white, or black and charred.
  • Person may exhibit trouble breathing.

Treating Fire Pit Burn Injuries

The level of treatment you need to provide will depend entirely on the severity and in many instances the location of the burn. No two situations are likely to be the same. When choosing level of treatment, you need to take the person’s needs in account. However, each basic form of treatment should be based initially on the degree of burn:

1. First Degree Burns

  • Start by cooling the burn, use cool running water or a bowl filled with cool water to immerse the burn. Continue until the pain has subsided.
  • Cover the burn with a protective sterile Band-Aid.
  • Never use butter or any other type of ointment, these will not only hold in the heat but can cause an infection.
  • Give the person some form of over the counter pain reliever.

2. Second Degrees Burns

  • Keep the burn in cool water for at least 10 to 15 minutes or apply a cold compress. Take care not to break any blisters. Do not use ice to cool or cover the area with butter or ointment.
  • Cover the burned skin loosely using sterile gauze pads held in place with medical tape.
  • Treat the person for shock, lay them down if possible and keep their feet elevated. Keep the burn positioned above the heart where possible. Cover the persons with a coat or a blanket.
  • Either take the person to see a doctor for his fire pit burn, or call for an ambulance based on how large the burned area is and its location.

3. Third Degree Burns

  • Have someone call for an ambulance immediately.
  • Cover the burned areas loosely with a sterile non-stick dressing, or use a bed sheet for larger areas.
  • If the burns are to fingers or toes use dry, sterile dressings to keep the burned digits separated.
  • Do not soak or apply any type of ointment to burned areas, this can lead to infection.
  • Treat for shock as listed above. If their airway is burned do not use a pillow under their head, have those with a facial burn remain in a seated position, and keep a very close eye on their vital signs.
  • Never remove any burned items of clothing, however if it is actively burning or smoldering you do need to ensure the person is no longer in contact with it.
  • Never immerse a third degree fire pit burn in cold water, this can lead to hypothermia and cause shock.
  • Check the person’s vital signs, this includes pulse and breathing.
  • If possible elevate the burned area above the person’s heart.
  • Cover the burned area with cool, damp and if possible sterile cloth, bandages, or towels.

Minor burns, first degree and many second degree burns, can be safely treated at home. In general they will heal on their own in time. If the fire pit burn injuries are second degree or above, and are on the feet, hand, major joints, buttocks, face or groin, seek professional medical care. If in doubt as to the severity of the injury seek medical care. It better to not need the help and seek it, than to risk permanent injury by not seeing a doctor.

To prevent getting  burnt in the first place, check out our safety infographic guide on how to use a fire pit properly.

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