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With Temperatures Climbing, Risk of Surface Burns Rises

Doctors warn of danger from pavement, especially
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 14, 2021 7:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Doctors at Arizona and Nevada burn centers are warning of injuries from contact with super-heated roadways and other surfaces as the first extreme heat wave of the year extends across the West. A high-pressure system is expected to push temperatures above 115 degrees this week in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Health officials advised people to be mindful of hot asphalt, sidewalks, and even desert sand, the AP reports. Elsewhere, heat warnings stretched from California's central and inland valleys to as far north as Montana and Wyoming, where predicted highs of 109 degrees on Tuesday are expected to shatter records. Those northern states should see relief by mid-week, but no such respite is expected for Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and parts of California. National Weather Service excessive heat warnings last through the weekend for those states. The high temperatures will be made worse by the lack of a break in the weather, according to AccuWeather, whose forecasters called it a "rare, dangerous, and deadly" event.

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That means burn centers are likely to be busy. In the Southwest, the problem of burns from hot surfaces is growing as temperatures rise due to climate change and increasing urbanization. And it shows up in emergency rooms like the one at the Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix, where Dr. Kevin Foster said 104 people were admitted in June, July, and August 2020 with serious burn injuries due to contact with scorching surfaces. Seven people died. Many more received outpatient treatment. "It doesn’t take much time to get a full thickness or third-degree burn when exposed to hot pavement," Foster said in a press briefing. "Because if you look at hot pavement or asphalt at two o’clock in the afternoon in direct sunlight, the temperature is usually somewhere around 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit." At Lions Burn Care Center in Las Vegas, injuries from hot roadways are so common that staff call the summer months "pavement burn season." In all, 13% of the serious burn injuries seen at the burn care center come from hot pavement. Cases start spiking once outside temperatures top 95 degrees.

(Read more burns stories.)

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