By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
The ongoing heat wave blasting many parts of the country has hit Texas exceptionally hard. The Dallas area has experienced extreme temperatures between 100 and106 degrees in recent weeks. The heat has made everyone miserable and many warnings have been issued about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, along with tips on how to stay hydrated.
I have a new warning, especially for parents of young children.
Who knew you needed to worry about burns other than sunburn in the summer? It seems that outdoor furniture, metal pool drain covers and playground equipment can heat up to dangerous levels under the unrelenting sun. Children have even been burned.
A patient just called me totally "freaking out" after her toddler had gone out to play in the back yard with his 3-year-old brother. It was morning and not yet terribly hot, so she thought it was "best time (for them) to get out of the house and get some fresh air."
The boys were climbing on the family's outdoor fire pit (as children will do) and when he stepped on the metal edge, he immediately began to scream and cry. His mother, who also happens to be a pediatric nurse, initially thought something had stung him.
When she picked up he son, he continued to cry as if in pain, but she couldn't see a bite or other injury - until she looked at his feet. He'd burned his feet on the metal, to the point of blistering. And, as you probably know, toddlers' feet are typically flat (arches come later), so both feet had come in full contact with the metal. The boy sustained second degree burns to both feet.
When the mother arrived at the emergency room, staff immediately started to treat her child's burns and severe pain. She couldn't recall who was crying more - she or her son. Once things settled down, she asked the ER physician on duty if this had ever happened before. Unfortunately, the answer was yes. The ER team had recently seen several other serious burns to children who'd touched hot metal on playgrounds and around pool drain covers.
My patient's son will ultimately be fine, after many days of oral pain medication and bandage changes (some of which will actually be done on an outpatient basis at a burn unit), but he'll likely never forget the incident.
So, let this be my warning to parents: Watch out for the possibility of burns if your kids touch or use outdoor metal objects - at least until the heatwave loosens its grip.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.
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This column was printed in the October 4, 2015 - October 17, 2015 edition.