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National Burn Awareness Week 2012: Do You Know What To Do After a Burn Accident?

Burn Care

In December of 2010, Cenel Castillo’s teenage years were forever altered by debilitating burns to his face and neck. 

It was an innocent sleepover. The kind teenage boys beg their moms to allow every Friday and Saturday night. After months of resistance, Gaby Castillo finally gave in and allowed her son to spend the night at his friend’s house. 

The next day, Cenel and his friends dug a hole, and began playing with toy cars and gasoline. When they added a flame to the mix, the situation spun quickly out of control.

“Nothing was happening, and so my friend added more gasoline,” Cenel said. “It splashed me and then I caught on fire.” 

It was the phone call no mother wants to get. 

“I got the call that Cenel had been burned and drove as fast as I could over to the house where he was staying,” Castillo said. “When I got there, I found my son sitting on a concrete floor. His skin was just hanging from his arms and face.” 

Cenel was immediately transported to The Grossman Burn Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital (SJCH) – Kern County’s only full-treatment burn center. Quickly, the doctors and nurses worked to dress his wounds and manage his pain. But as any burn survivor knows, a burn of this magnitude isn’t a quick fix. 

In the last year, Cenel has been through two surgeries and countless trips to The Aera Clinic, the outpatient Grossman Burn Center at SJCH. To follow his entire journey, visit 

Unfortunately, Cenel’s story is all too common. Throughout the country, more than 83,000 children under the age of 14 are burned each year. Some burns are more serious than others. However, no matter the severity, it is vital to take immediate steps to minimize the complications of a burn. 

“The first few hours are critical when it comes to burns,” said Jacqui Engstrand, manager of the outpatient Grossman Burn Center. “Often a burn will not appear serious initially. But, if untreated, the burn will become exponentially worse over the next 24 hours. That’s why it’s so important to act quickly.”

If you’re burned:

  • Cool the burn with cool or room-temperature water for 15-20 minutes.
  • Don’t pop blisters.
  • Cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Wash wound gently with mild soap and water, especially if blister bursts.
  • Do not put butter, toothpaste, mayonnaise, ointments or anything similar on the burn. These keep the heat in, which can make a burn worse.

Contact the Grossman Burn Center at SJCH:
  • If pain, swelling or redness increases.
  • If you get a fever.
  • If the burn is bigger than the palm of your hand
  • If the burn looks white or leathery.
  • For any chemical or electrical burn.
  • For any burn to the hands, feet, genitals or major body parts.

The Grossman Burn Center at SJCH is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information, please call 869-6135.