February 22, 2012

Smoke Inhalation Injury From Burning Garbage Pits: Does U.S. Government Have Legal Liability?

Rather than creating traditional landfills, U.S. military personnel have burned tons of trash and human waste while stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But some veterans now believe that their present health problems are the result of breathing in the polluted fumes and smoke that came from those burn pits.

Legislation filed in November in the U.S. Congress would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a registry for veterans who might have been exposed to these burn pits during the wars involving the U.S. between 2001 and 2011. The database would allow the government to collect information on the number of veterans exposed to the burn pits and the types of health problems they are suffering. However, it doesn't direct the government to provide any particular type of benefits to those veterans.

"Is there a really consistent pattern of a problem, of is it more a coincidence?" said one member of Congress. "We've seen anecdotally what appears to be some pretty weird symptoms that just turned up from nowhere" among soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The VA website states that toxins in smoke like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide could affect the skin, eyes, kidneys, liver and the nervous, cardiovascular and reproductive systems. But it also says that research has not shown to this point long-term adverse health effects from exposure to burn pits.

The VA previously had asked the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences to review existing literature on the potential health effects of exposure to burn pits in military settings. A report released in early November by the institute focused on a burn pit used to dispose of waste at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, which burned up to 200 tons of waste per day in 2007.The report found that the levels of most pollutants at the base were not higher than levels measured at other polluted sites worldwide, but it said there was insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions about any long-term health effects that might be seen in service members exposed to burn pits.

The legislation would require the VA to commission an independent, scientific study to recommend the most effective means of addressing the medical needs that are likely to result from exposure to open burn pits. To create and maintain the database could cost about $2 million over five years.

For people not in the military, here's the lesson from this story: Any type of smoke inhalation can be damaging to several systems in the body, to the point that you might never fully recover--and it might result in premature death. So whenever a person suffers smoke inhalation, they should be given professional medical help immediately to flush the lungs of smoke (which contains not just carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, but many other poisons too)--even if the person feels fine!

Many times, injury and pain and suffering from smoke inhalation does not appear until hours or days later--but by then it is too late to repair the damage done to the human body. So don't take a chance--if someone suffers any smoke inhalation, get them professional medical help immediately.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

February 21, 2012

Discharge Home After a Burn Injury

After staying in the hospital for a period of time, there will come a time when the patient has to be discharged home. When the burn team decides that the patient is ready to be discharged, a plan will be set for the discharge. The case manager will work with the patient and his/her family to coordinate for the discharge. Some patients will be discharged to a rehabilitation center to continue their treatment. Don't hesitate to ask any question you have regarding your discharge plan. The discharge plan will include:

  • The medications that the patient will use after discharge: before discharge you have to know the medications that you have to continue using, how to take them, the dose, how many times a day, what the medicine is used for and what are the possible side effects of the drugs. You have to finish any prescription you are given even if you are feeling good.
  • The diet that you should consume: a well balanced, healthy diet should be consumed by the patient with plenty of fluids. If there are diet restrictions it will be discussed with the patient before discharge which will differ from one patient to another depending on the situation of the patient (see Nutrition and Burns).
  • Physical activity: activity is important to prevent joint stiffness and avoid muscle power loss. The patient, before discharge, will be given instructions from the burn team regarding the activities that the patient can participate in. The patient should avoid certain activities like heavy lifting until the physician tells the patient it's ok to do them. Some patients may need physical or occupational therapy at home as part of the recovery process (this will be arranged by the hospital staff).
  • Some patients may need certain equipment like a wheelchair. The case manager with the burn team will work with the patient so that the patient will have the equipment needed.
  • Taking care of the wound and the dressings: see also burn wound care at home, wound infection. Follow all the instructions given to you by your treating staff. Ask your doctor when you can begin bathing or showering.
  • Compression garments: some patients may need compression garments which are used for the treatment of scars, they work by applying pressure to the affected area which helps flatten and improve the appearance of the scar.
  • Follow ups: make sure to keep all the follow ups, if you miss one, call to re schedule it.
This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.
February 16, 2012

Quick Thinking Minimizes Burn Injury After Scald Accident

In late January in a small town in Illinois, a mother and father helped to minimize the injury to their nine-year-old daughter from a burn accident, by knowing what to do and acting quickly.

What would you do if your child got scalded by boiling hot water, or if you saw a restaurant worker scalded by hot liquid or food? Doctors say this is something that parents and restaurants employees alike should know, because these scalding accidents happens a lot.

The young girl in this case did sustain second degree burns and third degree burns, and was still in considerable plain a few weeks after the burn accident. But without her parents' fast actions, the girl probably would have had much worse injuries--which could have required skin graft surgery to repair damaged skin.

The girl was eating with her family at a restaurant when a pot of steaming hot water for tea that was placed on the table turned over. When the boiling water spilled into the girl's lap, it burned right through her clothes and skin to the inner layers of the dermis, where nerves and blood vessels are. "I started to feel like I was on fire, and I just started to scream," the girl said afterward.

First, the girl's parents pulled her pants off to cool her down. "I didn't care that we were in the middle of a restaurant--they had to come off," said her father. "At that point, though, I could already feel some of the skin blistering."

Her mother, a nurse, ran to the kitchen and grabbed ice and cold water. "I grabbed an iced tea pitcher and filled it with water, and sat her down with the ice and held her and poured the ice and the water, continually dumping some of it into her lap," the mother said. "You have to stop the burning process. Even though the top layer of skin could be dry, the burning is still going in the skin layers below. If you can stop that deeper burning, you can stop a lot of the injury damage."

The girl's doctor at the burn center at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, IL said that was good thinking. "To try to cool down a burn injury is important. Particularly when a victim has clothing that has hot liquid on it, that heat is still transferring heat to the skin," he said.

A few weeks later, the girl is well enough to play board games to ease her pain. "It makes me forget that I got burned," she says. In addition, some virtual reality video games have been proven to help burn victims lessen their pain by taking their minds of of their burn injuries for minutes or hours at a time, even when pain medication does not help.

The girl's doctor says that 40 percent of Loyola's burn unit patients are children. Most of them were burned with hot water or food. This is why parents must know what to do in the event their child suffers a burn accident, and why restaurant workers should know as well.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

February 14, 2012

Door Fires and Burn Accidents in Toyota Models Under Investigation


Some Toyota Camry and RAV4 owners have reported their car doors catching on fire, apparently from a power window switch. Federal safety regulators are investigating reports of fires in the driver's side doors of 2007 Toyota Camry sedans and RAV4 crossover SUVs.

The probe could affect as many as 830,000 vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week in documents posted on its website. The vehicles have not been recalled.

The fires appear to start in the power window switch in the door. Six fires have been reported to the agency, but NHTSA has no reports of anyone being hurt. The agency said it started the investigation this week.

Toyota said in a statement that it is cooperating with NHTSA in the investigation.

Most of the fires were minor with damage limited to the doors, but a Camry was destroyed in one case, according to complaints filed with NHTSA. Several owners reported that they were afraid to drive their vehicles because of the threat of fires.

In one case, on Nov. 19, 2011, a Camry owner reported seeing flames coming from the door immediately after starting the car. Firefighters were called, but the car was reported destroyed, the complaint said.

A RAV4 owner reported that in August of last year, the master power window switch caught fire, burning a hole the size of a dime. The owner had been having trouble with the power window since July of 2009. "I was so afraid to drive that fire trap, I traded it in for a new car," the complaint said. "The RAV4 was paid off. Now I have a car loan at 19.9 percent."

Toyota's reputation has taken a hit over the past three years due to a string of huge recalls that have ballooned to more than 14 million vehicles worldwide. Millions were recalled for acceleration problems, and Toyota replaced floor mats that can trap gas pedals as well as pedal assemblies that can stick and cause cars to take off by surprise. But after an exhaustive probe, U.S. safety regulators, aided by NASA engineers, could not find anything wrong with Toyota's electronic throttle controls.

In December, the 2012 Camry received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency's top rating.

Here's the lesson to be learned from this story: If you see or smell smoke or fire from within your car, shut off the car and get out of the car immediately. DO NOT open the hood of the car--this will give a fire more oxygen to burn and can result in severe burns to you or people around you. Call the fire department immediately.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

February 10, 2012

Hazards Including Second Degree Burns Lead to Recall Tassimo Coffee Makers

A 10 year old girl sufferred a second degree burn to her face and neck and needed to be hospitalized as a result of a defective coffee maker. The consumer Product Safety Comission (CPSC) reported that there have been 140 reports of problems with the Tassimo single-cup brewers dousing people, including 37 cases involving second degree burns. CPSC reported that the plastic disc that holds the coffee or tea in the coffee maker's (T-disc) can burst while brewing and spray hot liquid and coffee grounds or tea leaves onto consumers .

About 835,000 coffee makers are on recall in the United States and another 900,000 in Canada. The agency also announced the recall of 4 million packages of Tassimo espresso T-discs after 21 reports of problems.

Contact with hot liquids is one of the causes of a second degree burn. Clinical features of a second degree burn may include the following;

  • Blisters.
  • Deep redness.
  • Swelling.
  • Pain (they are the most painful because nerve endings are intact).
  • Peeling of the skin.
  • Shock because of the loss of fluid.
  • Burned area may appear wet and shiny or white.

Treatment:
Second degree burns can be treated at home if they are minor. Moderate and critical burns require treatment in a hospital. You need to seek medical treatment immediately if the burn is greater than 2-3 inches in diameter, if it is on the face, hands, feet, or genitals; or if the burn is caused by an electrical source.

The goal of treatment for second degree burns is to ease the pain and prevent infection.

  • Remove any jewelry or clothes from the burned area.
  • Hold the burn under cool running water for 10-15 minutes or apply cold water compresses like a wet towel.
  • Don't break blisters because it will increase the risk of infection.
  • You can apply an antibiotic cream or an aloe based cream then cover the burn with a dry sterile gauze pad.
  • Use pain reducing medications like Tylenol or Motrin.
  • If the burn is on the arms or legs, keep them raised to reduce swelling.
Avoid the following things:
  • Don't use ice or ice water. (may cause more injury).
  • Don't remove clothing if it is stuck to the burn (it will remove burned tissue with it).
  • Don't put grease, ointments, petroleum jelly or home remedies, these substances can hold the heat in and make the burn worse.
  • Don't use bandages with adhesive material (it will stick to the wound).
  • Don't give aspirin to a child under the age of 18 years.
If there is any change or worsening of the burned area you should see your doctor. These changes include: puss drainage from the burned area, increased redness, excessive swelling, blister filled with greenish or brownish fluid, fever, swollen lymph nodes, numbness or coolness of the skin beyond the burned area. (See wound infection)

A second degree burn heals between 10 days to 3 weeks, deep second degree burns may take more than 3 weeks to heal.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

February 9, 2012

A Wrong Decision to Extinguish a Fire Results in a Severe Burn Accident

In Knoxville, Tennessee last week, a fire in the middle of the night from a fireplace that was not properly monitored cause severe burns to a 23-year-old man. Apparently, the man tried to put out the spreading flames by stomping on the burning materials and by placing towels over the flames to smother them. As a result, the victim suffered second degree burns and third degree burns to his hands and feet. He was flown to the Vanderbilt Burn Center in Nashville for more advanced treatment. The victim might need a skin graft to fully heal his burn wounds.

A neighbor said that the man, who was alone in the house at the time of the fire, was using the fireplace to stay warm. "When fire crews got to the house, the victim was outside already," said the local fire chief. "He had apparently made an attempt to put the flames out before they got out of control. That's usually when you suffer burns to your hands and feet."

Firefighters attended to the victim, and started a defensive attack to keep the fire from spreading to houses next door. But the fire became so intense that a neighbor's home, including the roof and siding, was damaged by the heat. In addition to the victim's house being destroyed, there is now the possibility that the burn victim has legal liability for damages inflicted upon the adjacent house.

The victim told firefighters that he had started a fire in the fireplace in the late evening, before going to bed, and left the fire burning.

There are a few important lessons to learn from this incident:

First, it is very dangerous to leave a fire unattended! The same goes for candles and food that is cooking. You should NOT leave any room using fire or a flame for more than a few seconds.

Second, if a fire starts in your home, do NOT try to put it out yourself unless it is small AND only if you use a fire extinguisher. Getting close to a fire with your hands and feet is very dangerous, and even your clothes could catch fire, which can kill you before you can perform the "stop, drop and roll" procedure.

Third, remember that three out of every four people who die in a fire suffer smoke inhalation rather than severe burns. It takes only one or two breaths of fire smoke, which is contaminated with poisonous carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, to make a person unconscious, and thus unable to escape the fire.

If a fire starts in your home and no fire extinguisher is available, you should immediately yell "fire!" to all other people in the house so that they know they must evacuate, and you should then get yourself out of the house as quickly as possible. Once outside, you should call 911 or the fire department and give them the address of the house. Do NOT go back into the house under any circumstances!

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

February 7, 2012

NASCAR Shop Accident Shows That Workplace Fires Can Happen Anywhere

In late January, ten people were treated and released from the hospital after suffering smoke inhalation from a fire that broke out inside the Joe Gibbs Racing complex in Huntersville, N.C.

Huntersville police said that a machine, thought to be a laser cutter, caught fire inside the building. The fire was contained to the machine shop inside the building, and the 10 people were treated by paramedics in the adjacent parking lot. These ten people were then cleared to go back inside the complex.

"A piece of equipment in the machine shop caught fire at our Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville, N.C. The fire department was called and the fire was quickly contained and extinguished," read a statement from Joe Gibbs Racing. "A few of our employees received treatment on site for issues related to smoke inhalation. All employees were able to return to work within the hour to continue preparations for the 2012 NASCAR season."

Witnesses observed smoke pouring from the complex, located just west of Interstate 77 on the outskirts of Charlotte, N.C. Joe Gibbs Racing is home for the race teams of several high-profile drivers, including drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

It's the second year in a row that a fire has caused damage to this facility. In February 2011, a fire caused significant damage to the room where engines are built and worked on. No one was injured in that incident.

Workplace fires are dangerous because, although most offices and shops have smoke detectors and fire alarms, many people are trying to escape down fire stairs and through fire exits, which can cause crowding and prevent a quick escape. The result could be second degree or third degree burns in addition to smoke inhalation, which can make a victim unconscious in just seconds, and unable to escape.

It is wise for you to know where the fire exits are in a building from the first minute you go inside that building. It will save you precious time in the event of a fire.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

February 2, 2012

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed for Industrial Employee who Suffered Third Degree Burns at Work

In late December, the wife of an industrial worker who suffered fatal third degree burns when a steel ladle erupted and spewed molten steel on him, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her husband's employer and the manufacturers of the ladle.

Roxanne Moyer, individually and on behalf of her deceased husband, Samuel N. Moyer, filed suit against Siemens Vai Services et als, Signal Metal Industries Inc., Danieli Corp., North American Refractories Co. and Black Diamond Capital Management on December 30, 2011 in federal court in New Orleans, LA.

The incident occurred on February 1, 2011 while Samuel Moyer was working as a furnace second helper in the ArcelorMittal Laplace steel manufacturing mill. During the course of his regular job duties, a steel ladle erupted and spewed molten steel, which came into contact with Moyer. Two days later, he died from third degree burns he suffered during the incident.

Moyer's wife contends that the defendants are liable because the steel ladle, ladle transfer car, ladle stir plugs and nest block assembly were all unreasonably dangerous in design, construction, composition, and lack of warnings, and also because the products did not conform to an express warranty of the manufacturer.

The plaintiff is asking the court for an award of survival action damages for conscious physical pain and suffering and mental pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses and wrongful death damages for loss of love, affection, services, and support, as well as infliction of grief, plus interest and court costs. A jury trial was requested.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injury suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

January 31, 2012

Three People Suffer Smoke Inhalation but Are Saved from Fire; Stored Gasoline to Blame

Near Chicago last month, three people--one of them a baby--were rescued from a basement fire. It is almost a miracle they survived after suffering smoke inhalation and falling unconscious before they could escape on their own.

The suburban Des Plaines Fire Department responded to a call about people trapped in a burning residence about 6:45 p.m. Firefighters were dispatched and arrived at the scene in about four minutes. They saw that most the flames and smoke were coming from the basement, so they moved into that area first and found three victims.

Two victims, a woman and a male baby, were unconscious. Firefighters removed them from the building and were able to resuscitate them before transferring them to an ambulance. The third victim, a woman, suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation.

The three victims were taken to Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, and all indications were that they would survive the ordeal. "Our guys arrived quickly and they did an outstanding job of locating the victims, getting them out, and resuscitating them," said the Des Plains fire chief. "It could very well have been a much worse tragedy." If it took one or two more minutes for firefighters to respond, all three victims would have died from smoke inhalation or third degree burns.

After an investigation, it was determined that a gasoline can was accidentally dropped down the basement stairs and caused the fire when a water heater ignited fumes coming from the can. The victims were renting the basement apartment, so it is not yet clear if the owner of the house has legal liability for injuries the victims suffered. If there was negligence in leaving the gas can near the stairs that led down to the water heater, then the victims could sue the landlord to compensate them for their injuries.

The lesson to be learned from this story is that containers which hold gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner, or propane gas DO NOT belong in or near a house or apartment. Why? Because the fumes that come from even an empty container can catch fire from a nearby source of heat or flame--or even from a tiny spark of static electricity!

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injury suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

January 26, 2012

Ice Packs Can Cause Serious Burns

Ice packs are used sometimes to treat muscle strains or sprains in different parts of the body. These packs if incorrectly used, can cause skin burns which may vary from mild such as first degree burns or more severe such as second and third degree burns. Cold burns are caused by the prolonged contact with icy objects or snow, as well as the exposure to windy conditions. The burn is cause by a drop in the temperature of the skin in contact with the ice pack, this drop in temperature causes the water contained in the cells to freeze forming sharp ice crystals and damaging the surrounding cell structure. In addition the blood vessels located close to the skin start to constrict and when the skin and the underlying tissues are exposed to prolonged cold or extreme cold, the flow of blood to the affected areas will be greatly reduced leading to damage to these areas. (See also Frostbite)

One of the most common ways this can occur is through the application of the ice pack directly on the skin of the injured area. There are certain factors that may increase the incidence of cold induced burn injuries, these may include:

  • People who use medications that decrease the blood flow to the skin such as beta-blockers.
  • People with peripheral vascular disease which decrease the blood flow to the affected tissue.
  • People with peripheral neuropathy which decreases the ability to feel injuries.
  • Smoking and diabetes.
  • High velocity wind which increases the rate of heat loss from the skin.
  • People who are not well dressed for extremely cold temperature.
Clinical features of cold induced burn injuries including ice packs are:
  • Each individual may experience symptoms differently; the signs and symptoms depend on the severity.
  • Pins and needles sensation followed by tingling and numbness.
  • Redness and pain in the affected skin area.
  • Firm or waxy skin which is white and completely numb (a sign that tissues have started to freeze).
  • Skin blisters.
  • Very severe frost bite may cause gangrene (blackened, dead tissue) and damage to the deep structures such as muscles and nerves.
Treatment of ice pack burn:

You may notice having an ice pack burn if you start developing the signs and symptoms of cold induced injury such as developing blisters, feel burning, numb, itchiness and/or pain sensation in the affected area. The color of the affected skin may turn yellowish-gray. The affected area need to be re-warmed to stop the burn from becoming severe.

  • Warming process should be GRADUAL to avoid burning yourself and causing more damage to the skin. Soak the burned skin in warm water. The National Institute of Health suggests the temperature of water to be between 104 and 108 degree Fahrenheit for 20 minutes (never use hot water). You can use warm compresses or wrap yourself in blankets. Avoid massaging or moving the damaged area as this can cause the subcutaneous ice crystals in the tissue to move and cause more damage and avoid using direct dry heat to warm the affected area such as radiator or hair dryer as these areas are numb and can burn easily.
  • You may need to use pain killers, local antibiotic ointment and/or dressing depending on the condition of the wound.
You should seek medical attention if the burned area:
  • Doesn't begin to burn and/or tingle.
  • Remain numb with the skin white, cold and hard when you touch it.
  • Doesn't regain a pinkish complexion.
As these may be a signs of more severe damage of the blood vessels, nerves and muscles underneath the affected skin that may lead to gangrene.

How to avoid ice pack burns:

  • Use the correct size and style of ice pack on the affected area, more than one ice pack may be needed in large areas.
  • Put a barrier between your skin and the ice pack. You can use a thin folded hand towel or several layers of paper towels as a barrier. Using thick towels may keep the ice from affecting the area decreasing its benefit.
  • Small children and elderly people can suffer skin burns and damage quicker than adults because of their fragile skin therefore it's safer to use frozen vegetables as a source of cold as these vegetables will melt and become soft well before they can cause damage to the skin.
This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.


January 26, 2012

College Students Killed in Fire in a Rented Home--Is There Legal Liability for Their Deaths?

In Poughkeepsie, NY last week, a fire tore through a private home being rented by Marist College students near the campus. The fire killed killed two students and one former student. Four other people in the house escaped without serious injuries.

The off-campus house was being rented by six female Marist students. At about 1:30 a.m., the fire was initially reported to 911 by someone driving past the house. There were seven people in the house at that moment: four female residents and three male guests.

The local police chief said the occupants had gone to bed about an hour before the fire was called into authorities. "There was no issue that the occupants were aware of in the house when they went to bed," he said, basing his comments on interviews with the four survivors.

At least two of the occupants jumped through a window to safety after realizing that the house was engulfed in flames--which shows just how quickly this fire had spread. In fact, the first firefighters to respond to the emergency tried to get into the house, but were forced back by heat and flames.

One victim was found on the second floor of the house, one was downstairs and the third was under "considerable collapsed debris," the police chief said. The four survivors were taken to a hospital, where they were treated and released. They were treated for minor smoke inhalation and other minor injuries and were able to speak to police.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though the fire chief said the fire is believed to have started in the rear of the first floor. It is not yet know if the house had working smoke detectors.

There are lessons for all of us to learn from this tragedy.

First, everyone in a house should know where all the exits are--including windows--in the room where they will sleep. If a fire happens overnight, there are only seconds left to think and act. It is critical to know where the windows are in a room, because by the time people realize there is a fire, it might have spread too far through the house for occupants to safely escape through a door.

Second, if there is smoke in the air, you must immediately get down on the floor and move towards the door or window with your face as close to the floor as possible. During a fire, the cleanest, safest air to breathe is down at floor level. If you stand up, it takes only one or two breaths of smoky air (which is filled with poisonous gases such as hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide) to make you unconscious and unable to escape.

Third, occupants should make sure that there are working smoke detectors inside their house or apartment--it does not matter if the occupants own the place or rent it. While the owner of a house or apartment has the legal obligation to install smoke detectors, and would have legal liability if any occupant suffered third degree burns or smoke inhalation from a fire where there were no smoke detectors, the occupants should be proactive about fire safety too. So make sure there are smoke detectors near the kitchen and in the hallways near the bedrooms--and also make sure that each one has a working battery.

Smoke detectors save many lives each year--especially during overnight fires. So make it your job to have working smoke alarms inside the place where you live.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injury suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

January 24, 2012

A Free Smoke Detector Program is Born From Smoke Inhalation Deaths Suffered in a Tragic Fire

A family in Clinton, Iowa is teaming up with firefighters around the midwestern U.S. to turn a terrible tragedy into an educational program that will probably save many people from suffering deadly smoke inhalation or severe burns due to house fires.

Four members of the town's Molitor family--two young boys, their mother, and their grandmother--all died of smoke inhalation after a chair caught fire in their Clinton home two years ago. The most heartbreaking aspect is that this was a small fire, which started in a chair. Unfortunately, the burning chair generated a lot of smoke quickly, and the family members who stayed too long in the house (rather than evacuating immediately and calling 911 from outside) were overcome by smoke, fell unconscious, and died. It takes just one or two breaths of smoky air to make a person pass out. In fact, 70 percent of all fire deaths are from smoke inhalation, not burns.

Furthermore, "there was not a smoke detector in the house, and there wasn't even a heat detector," said one family member recently. "There was nothing to alert some of them until it was too late. That is the worst part about it--this tragedy could have been prevented."

But since the fire, the family and the Clinton Fire Department have found a way to use this great loss to help save others. "The best thing we could do was get that information out to the public so it doesn't happen to anyone else," says one local fire official. So the Clinton FD created the "smoke detector project" just days after the fire. They will provide a smoke detector to anyone who needs one, for free--they'll even install it.

In the last two years the Clinton FD has installed more than 2,500 smoke detectors, and their program is now being instituted across the state. Also, Iowa firefighters are working to create a national smoke detector project.

The best part: The local smoke detector project has already saved a number of lives, which makes the Molitor family's terrible loss a little easier to bear. "If one life was saved, that is more than enough for them to use our last name in publicizing the program," said one Molitor family member. "If a thousand lives can be saved, I'll say that my family members' lives were not lost in vain."

Iowa's Smoke Detector Project is organized by fire marshals from around the state. Other states around the country also have free smoke detector programs. For information on obtaining a free smoke detector, call your local fire department or type in the words "free smoke detector" plus the name of your state into www.Google.com.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

January 24, 2012

Occupational Therapy and Third Degree Burns

When the skin is burned, it may heal by forming scars depending on the severity of injury. The more severe the injury (third degree burns), the more likely to develop scars and contractures.The aim of occupational therapy is to prevent or minimize the scars and deformities that may result from the burn injury. (See preventing and dealing with scars)

Occupational therapy is a skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence. OT may be started while the patient is still in the hospital and may be continued after discharge.

Occupational therapists evaluate the patient's need for a splint, positioning (sitting, comfort in bed) and exercises. They institute diversional activities, teach activities of daily living, provide a home program of splinting and exercises before discharge and home visits (if the patient needs them) after discharge.

The patient plays a major role in the recovery process. It may be difficult in the beginning with the pain and stress associated with the exercises, but with time it will be easier. The more time spent following the program, the faster the healing process and the less scaring and deformities.

Occupational therapy may be hard in the beginning because of the pain that is associated with the burn and surgeries, the sensitivity of the skin and the fear that the patient may experience. With children, doing occupational therapy may be more difficult. Parents play an important role in encouraging the child, helping him/her with their therapy and praising them.

Some patients will be transferred to a rehabilitation center after discharge from the burn center to continue their rehabilitation. The duration and type of therapy will depend on the condition of the patient and the severity of the burn.

Patients may be discharged home with instruction to continue Occupational therapy at home; compression garments may be given and used with exercising.

Make sure to attend all outpatient follow up appointments with the burn clinic. Your physicians and therapists will monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

January 19, 2012

Study on Recovery from Smoke Inhalation Injury Produces Unexpected Results

A study by researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine generated some surprising findings about the response of the immune system in victims of severe burns and smoke inhalation.

Contrary to expectations, patients who died from their injuries had lower inflammatory responses in their lungs than the patients who survived. "Perhaps a better understanding of this early immune dysfunction will allow for therapies that further improve outcomes in burn care," researchers reported.

The study was published in the January/February issue of the Journal of Burn Care & Research. First author of the study was Christopher S. Davis, MD, MPH, a research resident in the Loyola Burn & Shock Trauma Institute. Assisting him was Elizabeth J. Kovacs, PhD, director of research of the Burn & Shock Trauma Institute.

Researchers followed 60 burn patients in the Loyola Burn Center. As expected, patients with the worst combined severe burn and smoke inhalation injuries required more time on a ventilator, in the intensive care unit, and in the hospital. They also were more likely to die. Also in line with expectations was this finding: Patients who died were older and had larger injuries on the whole than patients who survived.

But the immune system findings were not expected. Researchers measured concentrations of 28 immune system modulators in fluid collected from the lungs of patients within 14 hours of burn and smoke inhalation injuries. These modulators are proteins produced by white blood cells and other cells such as those that line a person's airway. Some of these modulators recruit white blood cells (leukocytes) to areas of tissue damage, or activate them to begin the repair process within damaged tissue.

Based on studies conducted at Loyola and other centers, researchers had expected to find higher concentrations of modulators in the fluid of patients who died, because sicker patients tend to have greater inflammatory responses. However, researchers found the opposite: Most patients who died had lower concentrations of these modulators in their lungs.

The question is this: Why do some patients mount robust immune responses in the lungs after smoke inhalation and burn injuries, while others do not? The reason may be due to a few things working together: age, genetics, differences in patients' pre-existing health conditions, or anything that might disrupt the balance between too much and too little inflammation.

Survival of severe burn patients has significantly improved since the 1950s, due to advancements such as better wound care and treatment and prevention of infections. But progress has somewhat stalled in the last 10 years.

The immune response to lung injury from smoke or burns "remains not completely understood, and additional effort is required to improve survival of burn-injured patients," researchers wrote.

The study was presented at the 2011 meeting of the American Burn Association, where it won the 2011 Carl A. Moyer Resident Award for the best study submitted by a resident physician. The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, International Association of Fire Fighters and the Dr. Ralph and Marian C. Falk Medical Research Trust.

Loyola's Burn Center is one of the busiest in the Midwest, treating more than 600 patients annually in the hospital, and another 3,500 patients each year in its clinic. It is one of only two centers in Illinois that have received verification by the American Burn Association.

The study is among the results of research over the last several years conducted in Loyola's Burn Center and its Burn & Shock Trauma Institute, the latter of which is investigating the lung's response to burn and inhalation injuries.

January 19, 2012

Facial Scars

Burn injury may be severe and may involve any part of the body including the face. Facial scars are considered in general as a cosmetic problem, whether or not they are hypertrophic. There are several ways to reduce the appearance of facial scars. Often the scar is simply cut out and closed with tiny stitches, leaving a thinner less noticeable scar.

If the scar lies across the natural skin creases (or lines of relaxation) the surgeon may be able to reposition the scar using Z- Plasty to run parallel to these lines, where it will be less conspicuous.

Some facial scars can be softened using a technique called dermabration, a controlled scraping of the skin using a hand held high speed rotary wheel. Dermabration leaves a smoother surface to the skin but it won't completely erase the scar.

After scar revision:

With any kind of scar revision it's very important to follow your surgeon's instructions to make sure the wound heals properly. Although you may be up and about very quickly, your surgeon will advise you on gradually resuming your normal activities.

As you heal, keep in mind that no scar can be removed completely; the degree of improvement depends on:

  • The size of the scar
  • The direction of the scar
  • The nature and quality of your skin
  • How well you take care of the wound after the operation.
If your scar looks worse at first, don't panic because the final result of your surgery may not be apparent for a year or more.

As there are different methods of facial scar removal and each has its benefits and risks, you will want to schedule an appointment with a practitioner that specializes in facial scar removal before having the procedure completed because they will explain all these risks and benefits. You might also want to do your research on the practitioner that you choose because some are more experienced than others and you will want to choose the one that will provide you with the best results.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.