Health Care, Human Resources, and Nonprofits

Lifelong burn awareness

January 31, 2019
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Whether they’re accidentally grabbing a hot pan, letting a match burn too far or spilling steaming coffee, most people have experienced a minor first-degree or even second-degree burn injury at some point in their life. Although painful, we know these minor injuries will heal quickly and usually leave no scar.

Now, imagine surviving a large second-, third- or even fourth-degree burn injury, an injury so severe that not only are you left physically changed, but you’re also left with the difficult task of having to navigate and process the trauma of the injury.

Approximately once every minute, someone in the United States sustains a burn injury serious enough to require treatment, amounting to 486,000 injuries every year.

February 3-9 is National Burn Awareness Week, and we want to use this time to advocate for fire and burn prevention and increase awareness of a burn injury’s lifelong impact on survivors.

Prevention

From a survivor’s perspective, the best treatment of a burn injury is preventing it in the first place. That’s why we want to share a few ways to keep yourself and your family safe from some of the most common types of burn injury.

Here are few things you can do today to minimize fire risks in your home and better protect you and your loved ones:

Install smoke alarms: There should be smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Be sure to test the alarms once a month. If you have yet to install working alarms, the Grand Rapids Fire Department will provide free smoke alarms to homeowners within the city of Grand Rapids.

Seek a residential safety assessment: The Grand Rapids Fire Department also offers a free program for Grand Rapids homeowners where their team will provide a fire safety assessment of your property, install or upgrade smoke alarms, and do one-on-one fire safety consultations.

Create a plan: Talk with your family members about a fire escape plan at your home and practice the plan at least twice each year.

Check your hot water heater: Adjust hot water heater at or below 120 degrees. Young children and older adults are at risk for severe scald injuries within seconds when set to a higher temperature.

Mind that coffee cup: Set the coffee cup down and away from children. A spilled hot cup of coffee can cause a lifelong injury in seconds.

Invest in home fire sprinklers: Nearly 90 percent of all fatal burn injuries in the United States are from home fires. Home fire sprinklers are a crucial, life-saving technology that can reduce the risk of death in a home fire by 80 percent, and reduce the risk of property loss by 70 percent. If you’re building, get the facts about fire sprinklers.

We have made great strides in prevention with life safety building codes and public education. Thanks to medical advances, more than 96 percent of those treated in a burn center will survive their injury, which means there is now a larger demand for long-term burn recovery and healing.

Lifelong healing

Healing after a burn injury involves physical, emotional and social recovery, and no one should have to go through it alone. When burn survivors leave the hospital, it’s important they have the necessary resources and support to get back to living.

One of the most valuable steps in the healing process is leveraging peer support. When one survivor can encourage and provide hope for another, it can speed and strengthen the recovery process. It also is important to remember that a burn injury doesn’t just impact the survivor. Families, friends and caregivers face their own journey of emotional healing.

The journey to acceptance

Going back to school or work is a very important step in a burn survivor’s recovery. For those who have experienced trauma, every-day interactions or otherwise normal activities, like going to a restaurant or walking in the park, can be extremely stressful.

From unwanted stares to overcoming inaccurate stereotypes, burn survivors experience many social challenges. And just like everyone else in the world, burn survivors want to be accepted for who they are. By continuing to spread awareness for the burn community, we hope to create a more accepting environment for all.