Vaping burns are rare, but they can be serious, according to the FDA, especially if the device catches on fire while in the owner’s pocket. Here’s what you should know if you get burned by a vape pen or e-cigarette.
Julie Ann Caffrey, D.O., M.S., assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery and director of the Burn Fellowship Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, notes that vape burns are getting more attention among burn professionals. She adds that the injuries are probably underreported.
Caffrey says, “The majority of patients that our team has seen with these types of injuries have been treated with local wound care. However, a smaller number have required surgery to heal their burn wounds, including surgical excision and skin grafting.”
What to Do for Vape Pen Burns
Vape burns can happen suddenly. For minor burns (those smaller than the size of a quarter), Caffrey suggests a cool compress (not ice). Then, each day, gently cleanse the area with mild soap and water and apply a layer of antibacterial (first aid) ointment and a clean, non-stick bandage.
Watch for signs of infection, such as fever, and call your doctor if you notice increasing redness, swelling or pain, or if there is a yellowish or foul-smelling discharge from the burn.
If a burn has the following features, Caffrey urges patients to seek medical help right away:
- The skin appears blackened, white or blistered
- The burn affects the face, a hand, foot, elbow or knee, or genitals
- The burned area is more than three inches across
If you’re with a person who’s been burned and waiting for help:
- Make sure the person is breathing normally and conscious.
- If you can do so without causing further injury, quickly remove jewelry, belts or restrictive clothing and elevate the burned area above heart level.
- Cover the burned area with a clean, damp cloth — do not submerge it in water.
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If Your Clothes Catch Fire
If your clothes catch fire, remember the STOP, DROP and ROLL rule: Smother flames as quickly as possible by dropping to the floor where you are, covering your face, and rolling over and over, focusing on the area that’s burning.
Do not run or wave your arms, and don’t wrap yourself up in anything that could catch fire.
If there’s a fire extinguisher nearby, use it. Immediately cool the area with water and make sure the fire hasn’t spread.