The onset of extreme summer heat in Arizona brings renewed warnings from surgeons at the Arizona Burn Center – Valleywise Health about serious burn injuries from outside surfaces that can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Last year, the Arizona Burn Center recorded 85 admissions from heat-related burn injuries in June, July and August. Seven of those patients died from their injuries. Some of the individuals came to the hospital hyperthermic – with body temperatures of over 108 degrees.

Burns covered from 5% to 23% of the individuals’ bodies. Even though most patients did not have large burns, many were severely ill:

  • 33% required ICU care, and of those, 70% required mechanical ventilation.
  • The average number of surgeries was two per patient, with one patient requiring 18 surgeries.
  • On average, the patients remained hospitalized for 16 days.

“The Arizona Burn Center treats an alarming number of patients with life-threatening burns from Arizona’s extreme heat. These injuries are serious but preventable. With this report, we hope to raise awareness of the dangers of hot surfaces like asphalt and concrete,” said Dr. Kevin Foster, Arizona Burn Center Director.

Foster noted it only takes seconds of exposure to hot outdoor surfaces to cause serious burns. He cautioned that babies, young children and seniors are especially vulnerable.

“External surface temperatures can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and deep cutaneous burns can happen with only brief contact,” Foster said. “Exposure often occurs in patients with impairments that prevent them from quickly removing themselves from such contact, leading to severe injury.”

The age range of those treated last year was from 24 to 91, with the average age of 54. Sixty percent were white; 22% Latino; 9% Native American and 8% Black. 26% were unsheltered.

Many of those who survived faced significant challenges:

  • 69% required additional care and were discharged to another facility for post-acute care. 
  • 25% required additional hospitalizations.
  • 26% were able to return home at time of discharge.