Burns from Motor Vehicles

People can sustain burns and heat-related injuries from their motor vehicle. Children, pets and the elderly are at the highest risk of injury. Such injuries can show up even after being in a motor vehicle for a short time. For example, when it is 93 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the vehicle can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit after only 20 minutes. Within 40 minutes, the temperature can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don’t allow kids to play inside vehicles or their trunks in extremely warm weather. They can get heat stroke, which can lead to permanent injury and death within just a few minutes. Don’t leave a child in a hot car unattended and teach kids not to play around vehicles in hot weather. Make sure all passengers in your car have left the vehicle. Don’t leave a sleeping child or older person in the car. Stay away from leather seat, safety belt buckles and latch plates when riding in a hot car until they cool down. Shade the front and rear windows when not using your car so the heat doesn’t build up.

Run the air conditioner to cool off the vehicle before getting in. Lock your car and trunk when not around your vehicle so children don’t get in and suffer heat stroke. Lock rear seats so kids don’t have access to the trunk from the back seat. Teach kids how to unlock the vehicle from the inside if they are old enough so they can get out when unintentionally locked in the car. Get a trunk release that allows people to get out of the trunk if locked inside.

If a person suffers heat stroke, remove them from the car and put them in a cool environment. Call 911 and keep the victim calm. Treat minor burns with first aid cream.

If your car overheats, the radiator pressure goes up. If you take the radiator cap off, the liquid explodes or boils over and you can get serious burns. If there is antifreeze in the liquid, you can get a chemical burn as well. Common areas of burning are the hands, face, arms and chest. You need to minimize idling of your car in hot weather and you should never open a hot radiator cap. Keep a first aid kit with you in your vehicle.

Burns secondary to cars account for as many as ten percent of all admissions to burn units. One research group looked at burns in a regional burn center over a six year period of time, ending in 2003. There were 2,745 burn unit admissions with 8 percent being related to automobiles. The average age was 30 years and 84 percent of victims were men. In terms of total body surface area, the average burn size was 14 percent of the TBSA. Twenty five people had inhalation damage and 25 individuals had non-burn related injuries. They stayed in the hospital on average 2 weeks or more and 108 patients had some kind of procedure, such as a skin graft. Most patients who had surgery had more than 2 skin graft procedures with an average of 2,780 cm of skin grafted. Two patients in the group died. Hospital charges were on average about 53,200 dollars or more.

Severe injuries from automobile burns were generally from carburetors and radiators; the patients suffered injuries from ordinary maintenance and use of their vehicle.