Burn injuries are one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor or emergency room each year. With so many ways to burn yourself, it’s not uncommon for someone to suffer minor or even serious burns while at work, home, or even on vacation.
There are many home remedies and treatments for burns available, some of which work and some of which do not.
See below for tips on curing burn injuries and preventing them from happening in the future.
There are not that many different terms for a burn in the English language, although there are a variety of different types of burns.
They are known as “degrees” and include
First Degree Burns
These are superficial burns, only affecting the top layer of skin. These burns tend to scar less and hurt to a lesser degree than other burns.
Second Degree Burns
These burns are slightly more severe and affect the dermis, the second layer of skin. As the dermis heals from this type of burn, blisters and fluid buildup is likely to occur, both of which are accompanied by a fair amount of discomfort.
Third Degree Burns
The most severe type of burn, third degree burns penetrate both the epidermis and the dermis and are typically very painful. This type of burn can lead to nerve damage or death, and leaves the burn victim susceptible to infection.
Different levels of burns cause different symptoms, and it is often difficult to tell the severity of a burn from the symptoms alone. These symptoms show signs of physical distress and if shown, mean the injury victim should seek medical attention.
Minor Burn Symptoms
Local burn pain
This can range from a tingling to a burning sensation, and usually affects only the burned area of the skin. If the pain extends outward from the burn, it may be an indicator of a more serious injury.
The most common and immediate symptom of a minor burn, redness of the affected area indicates that the skin has been damaged.
As discussed above, the skin may blister in the event of a second degree burn. This blister will eventually fill with fluid, which prevents it from worsening and lessens the sensitivity of the affected area.
Often coming only after the skin blisters, peeling is a common symptom of a burn. The skin that is burned often dies, and the body then sloughs it off in a natural way.
Severe Burn Symptoms
Burn Pain – Different from local burn pain, this pain is far more intolerable and often affects a larger area than just the burn. For example, if the hand is seriously burned, pain may be felt throughout the entire lower arm.
This can be the case if the burn is severe enough to go through the dermis and epidermis in a way that removes them from the body. This is a dangerous symptom as it leaves the burn and body open to infection.
Similar to an open wound, very severe burns can result in loss of the skin in the affected area. This type of burn should be treated by a doctor as immediately as possible.
Lasting Effects of Burns
Depending on the severity of a burn, effects can last a lifetime if not treated properly. Some of the more adverse affects a burn can cause are permanent scarring, blistering, wound infections, shock, and even death. If any of the more serious symptoms of a burn are seen, visit a doctor immediately.
Many objects that people encounter on an everyday basis can lead to burned skin. There are different types of causes, none of which are entirely preventable.
This cause of burns is the most common, and can come in the form of a hot stove or curling iron. If you touch your skin to the surface of something with an outside temperature of over 120 degrees, odds are that you will suffer some burn symptoms. Some common causes of burns to be cautious of include the following:
- hot plates
- steam burns
- exhaust pipe
- gasoline opening
- engine casing
- hot coffee
- any other hot food or liquid product
These can be caused from the application of a topical treatment that causes the skin to react in a negative way, such as by reddening or blistering. Some common offenders in this category include peroxide products such as hair dye, retinol products meant for skincare, and certain acetone based products such as nail polish remover.
The most common way to burn your skin is through exposure to the sun. Well documented is the case against repeated and unprotected exposure to sun rays as it can permanently damage the skin. Sunburns can lead to redness, great pain, blistering, peeling, and even the development of melanoma cancer in the most severe cases.
There are many ways to protect yourself and your children from obtaining a burn. Take measures to set your home up in a way that discourages burns: keep potholders near the stove, store fire extinguishers in the kitchen, and cover all open air vents with protective shields.
When out in public, be vigilant and aware of what dangers you face in terms of open flame or exposed car parts that may cause direct skin burns. Workplace burns are some of the most common, so if you work at a facility that causes burn risk, be sure to wear protective clothing like gloves and rubber soled shoes.
Sunburns are even easier to prevent as they are very predictable. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on a daily basis as even 20 minutes of continuous sun exposure can cause a sunburn. There are also products available on the market that shield the skin from the sun such as wide brimmed hats and clothing with SPF made right into them. Be sure to stay out of the sun between noon and four P.M. and stay shaded if this is not possible.
Test and Diagnosis Considerations
Burns are notoriously difficult to categorize and also to determine the origin of. It is impossible to tell a heat burn from a steam burn, as hard as your doctor may try. The good news is that the symptoms of a burn are unmistakable, so treatment options may be planned accordingly once a burn injury has been identified.
Herbal and At Home Remedies: At home remedies are the most commonly employed for the treatment and healing of burns as most are not severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor.
Some of the ways people have found success in treating burns include the following
Soak the burn in water
In shorts bouts, about 15 minutes at a time, water can help soothe the pain and remove bacteria from a new burn.
Apply a topical ointment
These antibiotic ointments, such as Neosporin, help prevent infection and often release a cooling sensation onto the affected area.
Over the counter medicines
Pills are only necessary if the pain of a burn in severe, but some find medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen help relieve the pain, swelling, and redness that accompany a minor burn.
Lotion with aloe helps ease the pain of a burn, and also encourages healing of the skin. This is particularly helpful in cases of sunburn.
Some find that bathing in a chamomile solution or rubbing calamine lotion on a burn lessens their pain and helps the wound heal faster.
Things NOT to do to your burn at Home: Some attempts at treatment can actually do more harm than good, so be sure not to do any of the following lest you make your injury worse.
Put ice on the burn
The cold temperatures of ice can kill any lingering living skin cells. There have been known cases of people contracting frostbite from ice left too long on a burn area where they no longer have feeling.
Wrap the burn tightly
While it is important to prevent the burn from getting infected, wrapping it too tightly can cause a lack of air flow which actually breeds bacteria growth. You want to allow your burn to “breathe” and have a chance to leak fluid and develop blisters if necessary as these are part of the healing process.
Put butter on the burn
An old wives tale, some believe rubbing butter on a burn will relieve their pain and stop it from blistering. In fact, the grease from the butter may clog the skin pores that are attempting to heal from the injury, doing more damage to the surrounding tissue.
There are relatively few options in terms of medications that treat burns as they are primarily a topical skin condition. Medicine that may be taken is more for the affect of lessening pain as opposed to healing a burn. One of the most popular pharmaceutical options for burns is Mederma for scars or Burn-X, both of which encourage healing and decrease the likelihood of developing a scar.
Internal medications taken for burns that are prescribed by a doctor are mostly used to combat infection rather than heal the burn itself. If your burn is severe enough that you believe you need medication, seek a doctor’s assistance immediately.
Performed only by a licensed Dermatologist, there are few skin surgeries available for minor burn victims. The options include:
This treatment is used to lighten scars and prevent the development of calloused skin from a burn. Primarily for aesthetic affect, this option is expensive and can be very painful.
Only appropriate in cases of bad blisters or a harsh sunburn, your dermatologist may choose to remove the skin that has been affected by the burn. Again, this option is more for aesthetic affect than comfort and may include your doctor using instruments to remove dead or peeling skin from around your burn.
For severe burn victims, there are also few options, most of which are designed to lessen the likelihood of infection or minimize visual impact of a burn. These operations are only performed at a hospital and may be used for life-saving in the worst of cases:
Closing a wound
If the burn is so severe that the skin has come open and the wound is raw, such as in the case of a direct heat contact burn, a doctor may need to remove the infected skin area and/or close up the wound using stitches or staples to prevent it from becoming even more infected. This is a costly procedure and is most often performed in cases where a patient’s life is in danger.
Done most often for aesthetic affect or to close up an open sore, skin grafts are extremely expensive and known to be some of the most painful surgeries available. The procedure is done as a doctor removes skin from somewhere else on the burn victim’s body, like the back or legs, then place the healthy skin on top of the area that way burned. In this way, both areas eventually heal over with skin, but scarring can be extreme and recuperation time is lengthy.
Burns are a very painful but very preventable medical occurrence. Our skin is designed to protect the insides of our bodies, but is therefore more vulnerable to injury itself. Take care to avoid situations where you may come into direct contact with flame or heat, and be sure to protect yourself daily from sun exposure.
While there are treatments available for burns, there are no cures, so often burn victims find themselves waiting patiently for their injuries to heal. If your burn is severe enough to cause blood loss, confusion, or fluid retention, be sure to see a doctor immediately. All physicians, EMTs, and emergency room personnel are highly trained to deal with burns of varying degrees.