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Summer is the time to practice fire safety

With the start of summer vacation upon us, Dr. Fred Mullins is already in the middle of the spring and summer burn season.

"As people start spending more and more time outside, the risk of grill burns, sunburns and other dangers increase also," said Dr. Mullins, who serves as president of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., and as medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta.

At the forefront of the dangers is the risk of sunburns. Taking preliminary precautions, such as wearing appropriate clothing and sunglasses and applying ample sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher, are the most important things people can do, Dr. Mullins said.

"It is best to apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before they plan to go out in the sun, and they need to reapply the sunscreen regularly if they are sweating profusely or spending time in the water," he said.

It's also important to remember that sunburns are caused by UV rays, not the heat of the sun.

That means severe burns can occur even on cloudy days.

Dr. Mullins said once the skin is burned, it's time to begin the healing. Check for blisters, as they are signs of a more serious burn could require emergency medical treatment. Also, make sure that there's no swelling associated with the burn that could make it difficult to breathe or swallow.

"We see severe cases of sunburn every year," said Dr. Mullins, adding that each incident of even mildly severe sunburn can increase the risk of skin cancer. "When then skin blisters up, it's usually a second-degree burn, which can lead to more severe problems if not treated correctly."

If you do get burned, there are a fewtips to alleviate the pain and skin damage:

DO take a cool shower or bath or use a cold, damp towel to apply pressure

DO wear loose-fitting clothes that do not irritate the skin

DO apply aloe or lotion to help cool and moisturize the burn

DON'T use butter or oil as they may exacerbate the burn

DO NOT burst any blisters, as this may encourage infection to set in.

DO take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like ibuprofen

DO NOT take prescription pain pills without consulting a doctor

Sunburns, however, are not the only risks that come along with spring and summer activities. Dr. Mullins said people should use common sense in all situations. For example, keep children away from gas grills, even if the grill is not lit. Make sure the grills are used in a properly ventilated area and that once food is cooked, it has cooled properly.

Web posted on Thursday, June 17, 2010

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