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February 8, 2011

A Bad Week for Fires, but Good News Arrives for Victims of Severe Burns

The cold weather blanketing much of the United States in this first week of February is causing many incidents of fire as people try to keep warm. For instance, in suburban New York, five firefighters were hospitalized with smoke inhalation after battling a basement house fire. One of those firefighters was in critical but stable condition and undergoing hyperbaric chamber treatment before going into the intensive care unit.

A local fire marshal said the blaze was not suspicious; the fire broke out around lunchtime and took about an hour to get under control. The firefighters were injured while in the basement, where there was a sudden eruption of flames, said one police detective. A fire chief added that "the fire at one point flared up on them," probably from a rush of oxygen that came into the basement from a door or an area of wall being opened to the outside. See a video of the fire here.

The lesson here: If you have a fire in your home, it is best to simply close the door to the room where the fire is burning and immediately go outside your home to call the fire department -- do not try to put out the fire yourself! In fact, closing a door or window as you leave will actually help to starve the fire of the fuel it needs to burn -- oxygen.

A second recent fire holds another lesson for all of us. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a warehouse of costumes that were to be worn during the upcoming Carnival holiday went up in flames. The most notable aspect of this fire, though, was how quickly the warehouse burned. The reason: Costume clothing is generally much more flammable than everyday clothing. Parents should keep this fact in mind, because just one moment of carelessness around the house--such as laying down a child's costume near a source of heat, or holding a birthday candle too close to a child wearing a costume -- can cause third-degree burns to someone wearing or holding a costume.

Happily, I end today's blog with good news for burn victims. Dr. Jorg Gerlach of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh has developed a technique whereby a spray gun can "shoot" a patient's own stem cells onto burn-damaged skin to treat and heal burns more quickly. So a second-degree burn -- a burn that penetrates the entire outer layer of the skin into the inner skin layer -- can disappear within days. The spray nozzle, using a patient's own cells, helps to cover the wounded area just like a paint gun would cover a wall. "The most critical cells are present, and we are using those cells right away from the patient. We just need to take care that we are distributing the cells nicely over the wound."

Normally, sheets of skin are grown over the course of a month, and patients sometimes die of infection during the wait. In contrast, the new approach takes just 90 minutes and burns can heal in as little as four days, Gerlach said. The skin gun was featured on the National Geographic Channel this week. See the video here Or read more about the process here.

June 21, 2010

Flammable Clothing

They are clothing in which the materials that is made from can catch fire easily. Flammable clothing became public in the 1940s after an epidemic of children who sustained leg burns caused by the ignition of Gene Audry cowboy suits, these suits were highly flammable. Soon this was reinforced when girls sustained burns that resulted from wearing cotton sweater which were highly flammable (torch sweaters). In 1953 the Flammability Fabrics Act was passed in the USA that regulates the manufacture and sale of wearing appeal of highly flammable clothing.

Among common flammable clothing for children are pajamas, gowns, and bathrobes. Factors that affect the speed at which clothes ignite and the rate at which they burn after being ignited include:

  • The type of material it's made of: cotton burns fast and is destroyed completely within seconds, synthetic fiber such as nylon has a lower risk of burning but it will melt and stick to the skin. For wool it burns very slowly and doesn't ignite. A fabric that is made from plant fibers which is chemically treated has flame retardant characters.
  • A fabric that is heavier and has a tighter weave has a higher flame resistance with a slower burn rate.
  • Pile surfaces have very loose fibers with significant air spaces between them, eg fuzzy fabrics, faux fur and others. In this type the surface easily ignites and the flames spread quickly across the brushed surface.
  • The design of the cloth: tight fitting clothes are less dangerous than long loose fitting clothes as long loose fitting clothes can swing away from the body and catch fire.
To protect children from being burned:
  • When buying clothes and sleepwear for children look for a label with low fire risk.
  • Avoid buying clothes that can catch fire easily.
  • Make sure that there is a protective guard around places where there are heaters and fires.
  • Children should be monitored and prevented from playing with candles, matches and lighters.
  • Children should be kept away from any fire source such as heaters.
  • In case clothes your child is wearing catch fire, Stop, drop and roll.
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.