04 July 2018
WEDNESDAY, July 4, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Backyard fireworks and sparklers are a Fourth of July staple. They can be fun, but also dangerous, health experts warn. Knowing how to set them off safely can prevent a celebration from becoming a tragedy. And the National Safety Council advises everyone to steer clear from all consumer fireworks, and only enjoy fireworks at a public display conducted by professionals. In 2014, for example, some 10,500 Americans showed up at emergency departments with injuries caused by fireworks, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The most common injuries are burns to the hands and arms from mishandling fireworks, said Dr. Cassiopeia Roychowdhury. She is a family medicine physician at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “It’s important to take practical safety measures, such as following directions on the fireworks themselves and standing far enough away when you are setting them off,” she said in a Penn news release. Not only big fireworks cause injuries — nearly one-third of injuries are caused by sparklers, which are often given to children, Roychowdhury said. “Be mindful of who is going to be around the fireworks,” she added. Roychowdhury said to always protect your hands and face when setting off fireworks and to use them only with experienced people. Also, check your surroundings to ensure there aren’t groups of people nearby who could be endangered. Weddings, parties and holiday celebrations are just some of the many occasions that can feature fireworks, and they’re often used by people who are more likely to be drinking alcohol, Roychowdhury said. “Make sure anyone using fireworks is sober and has their wits about them,” she advised. “You want to be smart about it.” Superficial burns with no break in the skin can be treated with aloe and medicine to relieve pain, she suggested. “The burn itself is a problem, but it can very easily become infected, so it should be monitored closely,” Roychowdhury said. She recommends keeping the wound clean using sterile water and paying attention to increased warmth or redness at the burn site. If you get a burn that bleeds, has drainage or breaks the skin, which could signal an infection, or if the burn is to the face, abdomen or genitals, then you should go to a hospital emergency room, Roychowdhury said. More information To learn more about firework safety, visit the National Safety Council.
26 June 2018
TUESDAY, June 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Giant hogweed is much like a Dr. Seuss nightmare — a towering, invasive plant with toxic sap that burns the skin and eyes upon contact. But the noxious weed is not imaginary, with a dozen states now on the lookout to eradicate any patches of giant hogweed that might crop up, experts say. The plant grows 8 to 14 feet tall, with a green hollow stem rising up to branches of small white flowers clustered in “umbrellas” about 2.5 feet across, said Naja Kraus, a research scientist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The plant releases sap containing toxic organic chemicals called furanocoumarins that cause severe burns and painful blisters on human skin, as well as eye irritation, Kraus said. Perspiration and sun exposure enhance the reaction. “If people get sap on their skin, the best thing is to go home and wash up with a lot of soap and water,” said Jordan Metzgar, a curator with Virginia Tech’s Massey Herbarium in Blacksburg. “Then stay out of the sun or wear sunblock for the last couple of days.” Giant hogweed is federally listed as a noxious weed, Kraus said. It is currently shown as active in 12 states, mainly in New England, the Mid-Atlantic region and the Pacific Northwest. The weed is native to the Caucasus mountain region of Eurasia, but its massive size and odd appearance led U.S. botanists to import it as an ornamental plant for arboretums and private gardens in the early 1900s, Kraus said. “It was brought over to be planted in a garden in New York, so it was brought for ornamental reasons,” Metzgar said. “Up until 15 or 20 years ago, that was all it was really doing, then it started to spread more in the northeastern U.S.” Brushing up against the plant with bare skin can cause a reaction that begins as soon as 15 minutes after contact. Burns and blisters can occur, particularly if the person exposes the skin to sunlight, Kraus said. Each plant on average produces 20,000 seeds, which makes controlling its spread a real challenge, Kraus said. Most seeds fall within 30 feet of the parent plant, but if the plant grows near a stream the seeds will float downstream, she said. “That becomes a harder job to tackle, because you have to find all the places where the new plants are growing,” Kraus said. Giant hogweed is most prevalent in New York state, Metzgar said. It has been identified there in 49 counties, mainly in central and western New York. Other states fighting the pest include Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Illinois, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Oregon, Kraus said. Officials beat back giant hogweed using a method called root cutting, in which they sever the plant root 5 inches below the soil, Kraus said. However, that’s only good for patches with fewer than 400 plants. Herbicides have to be deployed in larger patches, Kraus said. The job isn’t hopeless. Kraus noted that New York state workers have eradicated giant hogweed from more than 900 sites in recent years. “That’s amazing — 904 land owners don’t have giant hogweed on their property anymore, because we’ve been controlling it,” Kraus said. People who think they’ve got giant hogweed on their property should not approach it, Metzgar and Kraus said. “If you do think you’ve found it, take a good look at the leaves and stems and flowers, and then refer to a photo online for identification,” Metzgar said. Folks who are sure it’s giant hogweed should then take some good photographs and send them to their local extension agent, or environmental officials in your city, county or state, Metzgar and Kraus said. “It is very controllable,” Kraus said. “It’s important to report it if you have it, so you can get help.” More information The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has more about giant hogweed.
16 March 2018
FRIDAY, March 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The odds of surviving severe burns have steadily increased in recent decades, researchers report. “Remarkably, a patient up to the age of 40 who has sustained a 95 percent body burn now survives half the time, whereas in earlier times a 50 percent body burn killed that same person,” Dr. David Herndon said in a news release from the American College of Surgeons. He’s director of research at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas, and director of burn services at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Herndon led a team of researchers who analyzed the records of more than 10,300 adults and children who were burn patients at those two hospitals between 1989 and 2017. Over that time, the risk that burn patients would die fell about 2 percent a year, the study found. The risk was highest among people who were older, those who had burns over a large area and those who had lung damage from inhaling smoke. The researchers credit the reduction in deaths to improvements in the standard treatment for burn patients. That includes: New protocols for managing inhalation injury. Nutrition to fight infection and promote healing. Early burn excision and skin grafts immediately after the injury. Improved transfer of critically ill patients to hospitals and burn centers has also played a role, according to the researchers. “The most dramatic decreases in [deaths] most recently have been in patients over age 40,” Herndon said. “For example, a woman over the age of 40, with very large burns, is a patient who can survive today if these protocols are implemented,” he explained in the news release. Along with reducing the risk that a burn victim will die, researchers also need to identify treatment methods to improve survivors’ quality of life, Herndon said. And, “burn specialists also need to focus on implementing the protocols that have allowed this improvement in survival to occur,” he added. “We hope our findings will inspire other burn units to try to keep people alive with extensive burns because it’s clear that it can be done,” Herndon said. The study was published online March 9 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. More information The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more on burns.