Burns are categorised by tissue damage that develops due to heat, overexposure to the sun or radiation or chemicals or electrical contact. It can be a minor health problem or can be a life-threatening emergency. The treatment of burns depends on the location and seriousness of the damage. Sunburns and scalds can typically be healed at home, while widespread burns need immediate medical care.
There are mainly three types of burns first, second, and third-degree. Each type is based on the severity of damage to the skin cells.
1st -degree burns
This is a minor burn which affects only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). It is also called superficial burns that may result in redness, mild inflammation and pain. It heals within 7-10 days without scarring.
Second-degree burns are more serious which involves both the epidermis and second layer of skin (dermis). It may result in swelling, red, white or splotchy skin. Blisters may also develop with intense pain. After some time thick, soft, scab-like tissue called fibrinous exudate may develop over the wound. Proper dressing of the wound is required to prevent the risk of infection and faster healing process. It may take two to three weeks for the wounds to heal without scarring but may have pigment changes.
This type of burns are very severe that may cause damage extending deep into the skin. As the burns are so intense there may not be any pain because of nerve damage. Burned regions look waxy, white, dark or black and skin look leathery. As the nerves are damaged it causes numbness. There is no set timeline for this type of burns to heal, in most cases these wound heal with severe scarring and contracture.
Some of the complications of deep spread burns include:
A bacterial infection that may lead to sepsis
Fluid loss and low blood volume
Body temperature remains low (hypothermia)
Difficult to breathe due to the intake of smoke
Scars, bone and joint problems due to tightening of skin, muscles or tendons.
The doctor will assess the severity of burns by thoroughly examining the skin of the affected person. In most cases, the doctor may recommend the patient to be transferred to a burn specialised centre, if the burns cover more than 10% of the total body surface and if it is deep on the face, feet or groin regions. Furthermore, the doctor may also suggest for certain blood work, X-rays or other diagnostic procedure to determine for other injuries.
Most minor burns are usually treated at home and heal within one-two weeks. For severe burns, soon after first aid and wound assessment, treatment may comprise medications, dressings, therapy and surgery. The main goal of treatment is to minimise pain, remove dead tissue, avert infection, lessen scarring risk and regain normal function and movement. The medical treatments for a major burn include:
Water-based treatment experts use techniques like ultrasound mist therapy to clean and enhance the wound tissue to repair fast.
Intravenous (IV) fluids are given to prevent dehydration and organ failure.
The whole process of healing burns can be extremely painful. Patients are given pain killers and anxiety medications.
Topical wound healing creams and ointments are suggested for minor burns, these creams may prevent any infection and speed up healing and wound closing process.
Regular dressing is done with dry gauze to heal major wounds.
If a patient develops an infection then intravenous antibiotics are given to combat infection
A tetanus shot is generally recommended after a burn injury.
Skin grafting, plastic surgery and other procedures are done based on the degree of burns.
To lower the risk of common household burns follow these measures:
Never leave cooking dishes on the stove unattended.
Turn handles of the pan toward the rear of the stove.
Don’t hold a child while cooking at the stove.
Keep hot liquids and water out of the reach of kids.
Keep electrical gadgets away from water.
Monitor the temperature of food before serving it to children, never microwave baby’s bottle.
Never cook wearing loose-fitting clothes that have a chance to catch fire.
Do not let children access heat sources such as stoves, outdoor grills, fireplaces and space heaters.
Close unused electrical outlets with safety caps, keep all electrical cords and wires out of the reach of children.
Never smoke in the bedroom.
When handling chemicals always wear protective eyewear and clothing.
Set water heater’s temperature to below 48.9 C, test water before giving bathe to the kids.