High Heat Warning
As temperatures in the Las Vegas Valley linger in the triple digits, medical professionals from the UMC Lions Burn Care Center continue their efforts to educate community members about the dangers associated with the sweltering heat. Home to Nevada’s only burn care center, UMC experiences a high volume of patients suffering from pavement burns, severe sunburns, and other serious injuries each summer. UMC’s Adult and Pediatric Emergency Departments also treat an influx of patients with heat-related conditions, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
“Every year, the summer months bring a surge of hospital admissions and emergency room visits that can be attributed to the incredibly high temperatures in Las Vegas,” says Dr. Syed Saquib, Medical Director of the UMC Lions Burn Care Center. “The heat can cause lasting damage, and our team remains committed to helping community members avoid lengthy hospital stays as a result of pavement burns and other serious injuries.”
Pavement Burns on the Rise
While many community members recognize the need for protection against the heat, UMC’s burn surgeons are quick to point out the fact that a momentary lapse of judgment can result in life-altering injuries, including severe pavement burns.
“Second-degree pavement burns can occur in a matter of seconds during the summer months,” says Dr. Saquib. “The hot pavement can also result in particularly dangerous third-degree burns, sometimes requiring surgical intervention and extended hospital stays.”
Pavement burns remain common in the Las Vegas Valley. In fact, the UMC Lions Burn Care Center admitted 47 patients who suffered from pavement burns last year alone. Based on the most recent figures available, the UMC Lions Burn Care Center is on pace to see an even greater number of pavement burn admissions in 2018.
Pavement burns, in many cases, occur when people walk barefoot on a hot surface, including streets, sidewalks, outdoor patios, and other areas, exposing their skin to unsafe temperatures in the process. When the outdoor temperature hits 111 degrees, cement temperatures can reach 147 degrees. A second-degree pavement burn can occur within five seconds on a 140-degree surface. Even when temperatures fall below triple digits, the pavement remains hot enough to cause serious damage, according to Dr. Saquib.
“People should always take steps to protect their feet during the summer months, including wearing shoes with thick soles,” he cautions, adding that socks alone do not offer appropriate protection. “The pavement is hot enough to quickly burn through socks and other items of clothing in direct contact with the surface.”
In addition to urging adult community members to protect their feet, Dr. Saquib and other medical professionals also encourage parents and caregivers to ensure children don’t injure themselves on the pavement and other hot surfaces.
“Children who are excited to play outside sometimes rush onto hot surfaces without realizing the danger of burn injuries,” says UMC Burn Program Manager Mary Martinat, RN. “Parents should also be aware of hot playground equipment, especially metal objects that can reach dangerous temperatures.”
While many cases involve injuries to the feet, severe pavement burns can also occur when people lose balance or faint on a hot surface. If a person remains unconscious while lying on the scorching pavement, the resulting burn injuries can be life-altering.
“The severity of the burn injury depends entirely on the surface temperature and duration of contact. Hot pavement can cause extensive burns that demand immediate care from highly trained burn care specialists,” Dr. Saquib says.
Protection against Harmful UV Rays
In addition to hot surfaces across the Las Vegas Valley, community members must also protect themselves from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The sun can damage unprotected skin within minutes, and severe sunburns can require hospitalization.
“Sunburns can be significant enough to cause deep second- and third-degree burns requiring skin grafts and the surgical removal of dead or damaged tissue,” Martinat says. “We urge community members to protect their skin this summer, and throughout the year.”
Martinat notes that young children and senior citizens are particularly susceptible to sunburn as a result of their relatively thinner skin.
Dr. Saquib encourages community members to regularly use sun block with an SPF of at least 30 to protect their skin. To maintain the product’s effectiveness, he recommends reapplying sun block every few hours, or more frequently when swimming or sweating.
Protective clothing can also play a key role in preventing sunburn, and Martinat recommends hats with large brims, long-sleeve shirts, and light-colored clothing.
In addition to the immediate effects of sunburn, exposure to UV rays can also cause skin cancer. Dr. Saquib advises people to be aware of any new or changing moles, which can serve as warning signs of skin cancer.
Preventing Heat-Related Illness
With temperatures remaining high throughout the summer in Las Vegas, adequate hydration and limiting exposure to the heat can help prevent a host of potentially dangerous conditions, including heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Children, senior citizens, and people with chronic health conditions are much more likely to experience heat-related illnesses, Martinat says, underscoring the importance of staying indoors or in the shade as temperatures climb.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke can rapidly progress, starting with dizziness and lethargy before escalating to include confusion, nausea, vomiting, and loss of consciousness, in addition to other dangerous symptoms that demand immediate medical attention.
People should always drink plenty of water before going outside and continue to drink water throughout the day, she says. When consumed in addition to water, sports drinks and other beverages offering electrolytes can provide valuable hydration for those who spend long periods of time in the heat.
As the sweltering summer months bring a number of hazards to community members and visitors, Dr. Saquib says he and his colleagues at UMC remain committed to providing the state’s highest level of care to patients who experience burn injuries and heat-related illnesses amid harsh conditions in the Las Vegas desert.
“Our team is ready to care for any patient who comes through our doors, but we want community members to take the necessary steps to protect themselves from the heat this summer,” Dr. Saquib says.
For more information about the UMC Lions Burn Care Center, visit www.umcsn.com. For additional tips focused on heat safety, follow UMC on Facebook and Twitter @UMCSN.