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Hot sidewalks in the summer can cause second-degree burns

In the southwestern United States, it may not get hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk in the summer, but that doesn’t mean the pavement won’t cause severe burns. 

A new study found that pavement can get hot enough to cause second degree burns on the skin almost instantly when temperatures surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas reviewed hospital records of pavement burn admissions to a desert burn center from 2013 through 2017 and determined the outdoor temperature at the time each patient was admitted.  

Overall, the researchers identified 173 cases of pavement burns, and 149 of those burns were isolated incidents. The other 24 burns were related to other injuries like a car accident. 

Pavement burns can be a significant problem, especially in areas with notoriously hot and dry summers like the Southwestern US.  If temperatures are hot enough, any skin that comes in contact with a hot sidewalk, road, or driveway can be seriously damaged. 

“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.”

153 of the burns, 88 percent occurred when temperatures were at 95 degrees or higher. As temperatures rose above 105 degrees, the risk of a patient being admitted into the burn center for pavement burns drastically increased. 

Pavement absorbs sunlight, and as sidewalks and roads bake in the hot afternoon sun, surface temperatures can far surpass the surrounding ambient temperatures. Pavement on a 111-degree day can get as hot as 147 degrees, for example. 

While it is sound advice to stay off the pavement when temperatures reach a certain point, for many, it’s unavoidable. 

Some people also may not know that the pavement is dangerous when it’s hot outside, like young children riding their bikes. If they fall, they risk getting burned. 

“This information is useful for burn centers in hotter climates, to plan and prepare for the coordination of care and treatment,” said Dr. Jorge Vega, the lead author of the study. “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 when attending to pavement burn victims in the field.”

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Burn Care & Research. 

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer 

Image Credit: Shutterstock/welcomia

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