Sizzling summers cause pavement burns

Temperatures in the Southwestern United States that climb to over 100 degrees mean pavements heat up enough to cause second-degree burns on human skin within seconds.

Pavement in direct sunlight absorbs radiant energy – and, when temperatures top 100 degrees, can get hot enough to cause second-degree burns on human skin in a matter of seconds.

These are the findings from a team of surgeons at UNLV School of Medicine who reviewed all pavement burn admissions into a Las Vegas area burn center over five years. The team compared the outdoor temperatures at the time of each patient admission to determine “how hot is too hot”, according to a statement.

“Pavement burns account for a significant number of burn-related injuries, particularly in the Southwestern United States,” the study authors wrote. “The pavement can be significantly hotter than the ambient temperature in direct sunlight and can cause second-degree burns within two seconds.”

The study identified 173 pavement-related burn cases between 2013 to 2017. Of those, 149 cases were isolated pavement burns. More than 88 per cent of related incidents occurred when temperatures were 95 degrees or higher, with the risk increasing exponentially as temperatures exceeded 105 degrees.

For some people, hot pavements are unavoidable – including victims of motor vehicle accidents, people with mobility issues or small children who may not know better.

“This information is useful for burn centers in hotter climates, to plan and prepare for the coordination of care and treatment,” commented study lead author Jorge Vega. “It can also be used for burn injury prevention and public health awareness, including increased awareness and additional training to emergency medical service and police personnel.”

Photo credit: Josh and Erica Silverstein/ CC BY 2.0

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