Facts About Burns
Burns are common childhood injuries that can result from contact with hot surfaces, open flames, chemicals, extreme cold, steam, or exposed electrical wires. Any burn that develops a blister or covers a large area of the body requires evaluation by a physician. Burns on the face, hands, or belly button area are especially prone to infection and need treatment under a doctor’s care as well.
First-Degree Burns are superficial, affecting only the first layer of the skin. These burns appear red and may blanch to white when pressure is applied. They normally heal completely on their own within seven to ten days without leaving a scar. Treatment for first-degree burns involves applying an antibiotic ointment and leaving the area open to air. You can relieve the initial discomfort of a burn by running cool water over the area for a few minutes and gently patting it dry.
Second-Degree Burns involve the first two layers of the skin and form a blister. Contrary to popular belief, this fluid-filled blister should not be intentionally popped, as this opens the damaged skin to infection and provides an ideal wet, dark environment for germs to proliferate. If a blister pops on its own, cover the area with a clean, sterile dressing and change it often to keep it dry. Antiseptic burn sprays can help ward off infection and relieve discomfort. Any burns that develop bright red streaks leading away from the injury warrant an immediate evaluation by a physician. Second-degree burns appear white in color and may leave a scar. The time required for a second-degree burn to heal is generally about two weeks, barring complications. Second-degree burns can be very painful. Immersing the area in cool, not ice-cold water can help relieve the discomfort. Apply a triple antibiotic ointment liberally to the affected area and cover the burn with a light, gauze-type dressing. Keep the area clean and dry, but allow the air to circulate over the damaged skin. If seepage is visible on the bandage, it needs to be changed immediately. Change the dressing daily until the wound is covered with intact skin. Larger wounds may require skin grafting, a procedure whereby skin is removed from other areas of the body and grafted into the damaged skin to cover the injury. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water and follow with hand sanitizer before treating a burn or changing a dressing.
Third-Degree Burns are a very serious health problem. These burns extend completely through all layers of the skin and can affect tissue, nerves, sweat glands, and hair follicles as well. Third-degree burns are at a greater risk for infection and can appear black or dark brown, or the skin may be completely absent in some areas. These burns always require immediate medical attention, especially if they are located on the head or trunk of the child, and they may involve hospitalization. These injuries are excruciatingly painful and the child is considered to be at a high risk for infection. Second- and third-degree burns have the potential to become life-threatening injuries. The body responds to the injuries by sending extra circulation and germ fighters to the area to help ward off infection and speed healing. This can cause a sudden fluid shift. The body’s fluid distribution is normally very delicately balanced, and a sudden fluid change can lead to shock, lowered blood pressure, or breathing difficulties. An IV can administer needed fluids, and compression dressings may be applied to limit swelling and seepage. Even if a child receives prompt medical care to restore balanced fluid levels following a burn, infection is still a very viable fear. Infection in a burn can easily spread to the bloodstream and the rest of the body, resulting in sepsis, a system-wide infection that can be fatal.
- Once a burn has healed, the new skin is sensitive to sunlight. Healed burns will sunburn easily, so apply liberal amounts of sunscreen anytime the child will be outdoors.
- Some therapy, most of which can be done by a parent or loving caretaker, may be needed to assure full range of motion effected limbs.
See above. Many children with burns have entered adoptive families, and many more area waiting. These children go on to lead full and active lives.