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Too Much Gumbo

By Scott Hamilton, MD
February 9, 2022
Hamilton Blog Headshot Updated 12.21.21

This week’s guest columnist is Aminah Phelps, MD a Family Practice resident at Ochsner University Hospital& Clinics.

It’s gumbo weather! Nothing bad about that! I remember when my my three-year-old got burned from trying to climb on the couch with a hot bowl of chicken and sausage. He wanted to watch TV and eat simultaneously. My husband and I were unaware, until the loud scream. He had spilled gumbo all over his face, chest and legs. We immediately took his hot clothes off, washed him with cold water and brought him to the Emergency Department.

While holding him in the waiting room, I noticed his skin beginning to turn bright red. Fortunately, after a full evaluation by the doctor, our boy was going to be okay. His burn was first-degree, where only the very top layer of skin gets red and heals in a few days. After all, lots of people get first-degree burns in the summer- that’s sunburn! We were home in a few hours with pain medicine and skin care instructions.

I learned a valuable lesson. Be careful to give kids food that isn’t too hot. No child should be heating food alone either. We commonly see kids get burned when taking hot soup or noodles out of the microwave. Someone else in the kitchen bangs into that big, clumsy microwave door, knocks the bowl in the child’s hands and ouch!

Another common burn hazard for kids is bathwater. Hot water heaters should be set no higher than 120 degrees. Water hotter than that burns skin within seconds of contact. When children run their own baths, or parents don’t check the temperature before putting kids in, horrible burns can ensue before you can get them out.

Besides gumbo weather, it was bonfire season over the holiday which inevitably leads to burns. Above, it was a teenager standing by while some yahoo threw gasoline on the fire to ignite wet wood. This caused a “whoosh” and sheet of flame that washed over the girl as tried she get away. By the time she got to us, the back of her hand was blistered, and she was in pain. Almost more disturbing to her, she lost some her hair from the flames.

Like I mentioned above, first degree burns only turn the top layer of skin red, similar to sunburns. When deeper layers of skin are burned, the layers separate, causing the blistering characteristic of second degree burns, like with our teenager’s hand. These still heal but need regular cleaning and dressing to prevent infection; the skin’s natural barrier to contamination is gone when those blisters slough off. New skin does form, but that takes about a week. Third degree burns, also called “full thickness” burns, destroy all skin layers. Small third-degree surface areas, like postage stamp-size, can still heal. However, larger areas may need skin grafts to fill the void.

Remember, avoiding burns means for children turning hot water heaters to less than 120 degrees in homes, to prevent bath time burns. Watch kids carefully in the kitchen; particularly no unsupervised microwave use, to avoid hot spills. If kids do get burned, immediately remove hot clothing and run the burn under cold water. Prevent the most common kid burns (sunburns), with sunscreen. Finally, keep gasoline out of all yahoo’s hands with outdoor fires.

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