Summer 2024: Sidewalks and unshaded playgrounds pose a risk of superficial burns

PHOENIX (AP) — Ron Falk lost his right leg, underwent extensive skin grafts on his left leg and is still recovering a year after he fell on the hot asphalt outside a Phoenix convenience store where he had stopped for a cold soda during an event. heat wave,

Now a wheelchair user, the 62-year-old lost his job and home. He’s recovering at a medical respite center For patients who have no other place to go; there he receives physiotherapy and treatment for a bacterial infection in his right leg, which is so swollen he can’t use the prosthesis that was expected to help him walk again.

“If you don’t find a place to cool off, the heat will affect you,” said Falk, who fainted from heatstroke. “Then you don’t even know what’s happening, as it did in my case.”

Hot sidewalks and unshaded playgrounds pose a risk of surface burns, as air temperatures rise Reaching new heights in summer Southwestern cities such as Phoenix recorded the hottest June temperatures on record. The average daytime high was 109.5 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius), while no 24-hour highs fell below 100 (37.7 Celsius).

Young children, the elderly, and homeless people are particularly at risk of contact burns, which can occur within seconds if the skin touches a 180 °F (82 °C) surface.

Since the beginning of June, 50 people have been hospitalized with such burns, and four have died at Valleywise Health Medical Center in Phoenix, which operates the Southwest’s largest burn center, serving patients from Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Southern California and Texas, according to its director, Dr. Kevin Foster. About 80% of the people injured were in metro Phoenix.

Foster said 136 patients with superficial burns were admitted to the center from June to August last year, compared with 85 during the same period in 2022. Fourteen died. One of the five was homeless.

A woman who said she is homeless tries to cool off at a children’s splash pad in Phoenix on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt York)

“Last year’s record heat wave brought an alarming number of patients with life-threatening burns,” Foster said. 31 day period, That includes all of last July, when temperatures were 110 degrees (43 degrees Celsius) or higher during Phoenix’s hottest summer ever.

Map Released this week The survey, conducted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, gives a clear picture of how hot surfaces like asphalt and concrete are in metro Phoenix. Data for the land surface temperature visualization was collected on the afternoon of June 19 A NASA instrument Aboard the International Space Station, which measures thermal infrared emissions emanating from the Earth’s surface. The yellow, red and purple colors of hot urban areas on the map contrast with cooler green areas.

In Las Vegas, where summer temperatures reach triple digits, the Lions Burn Care Center at University Medical Center hospitalized 22 people in June alone, spokesman Scott Kerbs said. That’s about half the 46 hospitalized during all three summer months last year.

Like Phoenix, the desert sun punishes Las Vegas for hours each day, burning outdoor surfaces such as asphalt, concrete and metal doors on cars and playground equipment such as swings and monkey bars.


Phoenix firefighters give medical aid to a homeless man, Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Victims of superficial burns often include children who are injured by walking barefoot on hot concrete or touching hot surfaces, adults who fall on pavement while intoxicated, and elderly people who fall on pavement due to heat stroke or other medical emergencies.

Some people do not survive.

Thermal injuries were the main or contributing causes of accidents last year. 645 heat-related deaths in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.

One victim was an 82-year-old woman with dementia and heart disease who was admitted to a suburban Phoenix hospital after being found on a sweltering street on an August day when temperatures were 106 degrees (41.1 degrees Celsius).

The woman was rushed to hospital with a body temperature of 105 degrees (40.5 degrees Celsius) and second-degree burns on her back and right side, covering 8% of her body. She died three days later.

Many patients with surface burns also suffered potentially fatal heatstroke.

Valleywise Hospital’s emergency department recently had a New protocol For all heat stroke victims, patients are immersed in a bag of ice to immediately reduce the body temperature.

Recovery times for skin burn victims were often lengthy, and patients often required multiple skin grafts and other surgeries, followed by months of recovery in skilled nursing or rehabilitation facilities.

Bob Woolley, 71, suffered second- and third-degree burns on his hands, arms, legs and torso when he was wearing only swim trunks and a tank top in a scorching rock garden in the backyard of his Phoenix home.

“It was so painful; it was almost unbearable,” said Woolley, who was hospitalized for several months at Valleywise Burn Center. He said he considers himself “95% recovered” after extensive skin grafts and physical therapy and has resumed some old activities, such as swimming and motorcycling.

Some of the victims of skin burns in both Phoenix and Las Vegas were children.

“In many cases, this involves young children walking or crawling on hot surfaces,” Kerbes said of the children admitted to the Las Vegas center.

About 20% of the hospitalized and outpatient skin-burn victims at the Phoenix center are children, Foster said.

Young children don’t fully realize how harmful a hot metal door handle or a scorching sidewalk can be.

“Because they’re playing, they don’t pay attention,” said Ariane Miedl, an assistant professor and urban climatologist at Arizona State University who directed the study. The Shade LabA research team that studies the effects of urban heat.

“They might not even know it’s hot.”

In measuring Surface Temperature Regarding playground equipment, the team found that in 100 degree Fahrenheit (37.7 C) weather without shade, a slide could heat up to 160 degrees (71.1 C), but a cover could reduce that to 111 degrees (43.8 C). Rubber ground cover could heat up to 188 degrees (86.6 C), a handrail could heat up to 120 degrees (48.8 C) and concrete could reach 132 degrees (55.5 C).

Many metro Phoenix parks have covered picnic tables and stretched plastic cloth over play equipment, keeping metal or plastic surfaces as cool as 30 degrees. But that’s not the case at many parks, Middel said.


Homeless people sit in the shade of a box container while eating food from a soup kitchen in Phoenix on Thursday, May 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt York)


People cool off under a mist outside a homeless shelter in Phoenix on Thursday, May 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt York)

He said cool wood chips stay underfoot better than rubber mats, which were designed to protect children from head injuries but absorb heat in the hot sun. Like rubber, artificial turf gets hotter than asphalt.

“We need to think about alternative surface types, because most of the surfaces we use for our infrastructure are heat sponges,” Middel said.

Pets also face a risk of burns from hot concrete and asphalt.

Veterinarians recommend dogs wear these Herbs Dogs should be used to protect their paws during walks outside in the summer or to keep them in cool grassy areas. Owners are also advised to make sure their pets drink plenty of water and avoid overheating. The city of Phoenix bans dogs from popular hiking trails on days when the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat warning.

Falk, who is recovering at Circle the City in Phoenix, said he never thought Phoenix’s heat would leave him collapsed on hot asphalt in shorts and a T-shirt. Falk was sent to Phoenix after being discharged from Valleywise’s burn unit.

Because he didn’t have any identification or a phone, no one knew where he was for months. He has a long road ahead of him, but he still hopes to regain his old life, where he worked for a concessionaire for entertainment events.

“I kind of went on a downward slide. I finally woke up and said, ‘Hey, wait, I lost a leg.’ But that doesn’t mean you’re useless,” Falk admitted.


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