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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The death of a Chicago woman who stepped off an elevator in her apartment building–and into a blazing inferno–highlights the need for fire sensors in all elevators.

Shantel McCoy, 32, who was returning to her 12th-floor apartment on Lake Shore Drive, died from third degree burns to her skin plus lung burns after the elevator doors opened and she was hit with 1,500-degree air heated from gas and fire fumes coming from another apartment, according to a Chicago Fire Department spokesman. The fire apparently began inside an apartment on that floor–but although the residents managed to escape the apartment, the front door did not close behind them. This allowed the fire to spread into the hallway and heat the air throughout the floor to deadly temperatures. Nine other residents were injured in the blaze as well.

But the elevator accident never should have happened, says one longtime elevator-industry consultant. Charles Buckman notes that the United States’ engineering safety code requires elevators to have fire sensors on every floor and in the motor room. But in this building, Buckman speculates that “they must not have been fitted with sensors.”

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PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that may occur after the exposure to a traumatic event. People differ in their reaction to trauma; some will return back to normal after an exposure to a traumatic event, others will experience symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD develops differently from one person to another. Symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days that follow the traumatic event , but can also happens weeks, months, or even years after the incident.

PTSD is some what common. It can affect those who personally experience the trauma, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including law enforcement officers and emergency response workers. In the United States, 60% of men and 50% of women experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes. The diagnosis of PTSD was developed by studying soldiers from war, and it was originally called “shell shock syndrome.”

Many events and life situations may lead to the development of PTSD, these include:

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Back in August 2011, a grandmother’s summer holiday at a luxury seaside hotel in Great Britain ended in tragedy when she was scalded to death in a hot bath.

Unfortunately, severe burns from scalding hot water happen too often among children and seniors alike. The worst part is that these incidents are almost always preventable.

Evelyn Cowley, 88 years old, was enjoying her annual family holiday when she took a bath in her hotel room. But for some reason, she immersed herself in water that had a temperature of more than 120 degrees Farenheit. As a result, she suffered third degree burns to half her body, mostly to her lower limbs and her back and arms.

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Infection remains the most common complication of burn wounds, it’s a major cause of death among burned patients. It can happen in the hospital or at home; it can be local (at the site of burn) or systemic (the spread of infection to other areas of the body).

As the skin plays an important role in protecting the body against infection and acts as a barrier that prevents Microbs from entering the body, the risk of infection increases when a burn injury happens.

Risk factors of developing a burn wound infection many include:

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Itching:

Itching occurs with healing and newly healed burned areas. Itching can be a major problem for some children when they are in the hospital as well as after being discharged home. Itching is caused by the overlapping tissues formed by the scar itself. This tissue lack the nerve endings that is present in normal skin but due to the surrounding normal tissue that still has nerve endings, they become stimulated by scar tissue thus the characteristic itch kicks in. Itching should decrease as scar tissue matures. Itching can disturb or even prevent your child’s sleeping. Although it’s hard, try to prevent your child from scraching the burned areas as these areas are still raw (immature) and may bleed easily or get infected with continous or vigorous scraching.

Among the things that help in decreasing your child’s itching are:

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Here’s a story that provides a very good lesson for all of us on the need to think about fire safety not just at home, but also when walking around in stores, malls, and other public places.

In early January in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, four people had to be treated for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in a store. A clothing shop caught fire at about 8:15 p.m. on a Friday night, and firefighters were called away from a small fire in another neighborhood to fight the shop fire.

On arrival, fire crews found the fire was already extinguished. But even so, there were people in need of medical treatment, so paramedics were called in. Two ambulances and a rapid response vehicle were sent to treat three females who suffered smoke inhalation. They were taken to Peterborough City Hospital for further care.