Sunscreen causes second-degree burns - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Sunscreen causes second-degree burns

Here's a product safety alert about the potential danger of spray-on sunscreens. These products are supposed to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays. But some aerosol versions can actually ignite and set your skin on fire!

Backyard barbecues are as all-American as the Fourth of July. But if you're not careful, outdoor cooking can be dangerous. According to the National Fire Protection Association, grilling accidents send nearly 18,000 people to the emergency room every year. And while most injuries are caused by a leak in the propane hose or dousing charcoal with too much lighter fluid, in some rare cases the accident has nothing to do with the grill.

What most people don't know is spraying yourself with aerosol sunscreen can also set you ablaze. It was a terrifying lesson for Brett Sigworth.

"I sprayed on the spray-on sunscreen, and then rubbed it on for a few seconds," recalls Brett. "And I walked over to my grill and took one of the holders to move some of the charcoal bricketts around. And all of a sudden it just went up my arm."

When Brett walked over to stir the coals, the fire reacted to the alcohol content in the aerosolized sunscreen. And when he got too close to his grill, his skin ignited. Brett suffered second-degree burns to his neck, back and chest.

"I went into complete panic mode and just screamed," says Brett. "I mean, I have never experienced pain like that in my life."

Dr. Peter Grossman runs the Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles, California.

"A second-degree burn involves the epidermis and some portion of the dermis," says Grossman. "The key for second-degree burns is not to ignore them because burns are progressive, and dynamic by their nature, and they change. And a burn that may be a superficial second-degree burn on day one, may end up being a deep second-degree burn or even a third-degree burn two or three days later."

Dr. Grossman warns that parents need to be extra careful about spraying their children with aerosol sunscreen.

"Children who have these types of sunscreens on that have a flammable component can't always be watched," says Grossman. "And if your child is going to be anywhere near where there might be some type of barbeque or other type of flame source, it's just not worth the risk."

What happened to Brett Sigworth was an accident. But some kids are putting themselves at risk on purpose, so they can post a thrill-seeking stunt on YouTube. This takes the danger of playing with matches to a whole new level, which Dr. Grossman says can lead to tragedy.

"They think they're going to impress their buddies by setting themselves on fire," says Grossman. "Well, you have a very short window of opportunity to not have a tragedy happen. One or two moments of thrill-seeking can lead to a lifetime of disfigurement and dysfunction."

It's important to know that aerosol sunscreen can be safe to use when the proper safety precautions are taken. Just remember --  it's the alcohol in the sunscreen that can ignite your skin, so don't use the spray sunscreen near heat, fire or even while smoking.  

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