Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Burns
A burn is an injury or damage to the skin or body tissues caused by heat, chemical, radiation or friction. Burns can be minor or life threatening as it can cause swelling, blistering, scarring and in severe cases, shock and even death. It can also lead to infections because they damage the protective barriers of the skin.
Burns are the most common household injuries, especially in children. Mostly, burns are due to heat from hot liquids (called scalding), solids or fire. In 2015, fire and heat related injuries resulted in 67 million injuries with 2.9 million hospitalization and 176,000 deaths.
Types of Burns
First degree burns-
The first degree burns damage the epidermis which is the outer layer of the skin. They cause minimal skin damage and heals within 7 to 10 days without scarring. These are also called superficial burns.
Second degree burns-
Second degree burns damage both the epidermis and the dermis. They affect the outer layer of the skin and the layer under the skin. These are more serious, have a wet or moist wound and may form blisters. Deep second degree burns are more likely to scar.
Third degree burns-
Third degree burns are most severe and affect the epidermis, dermis and reach into the fat layer beneath the skin, causing damage to the bones, tendons and nerves. They take a longer time to heal with scarring.
Symptoms of Burns
Symptoms vary according to the type of burn.
Symptoms of first degree burns are-
- Minor swelling.
- Dry, peeling skin as the burn heals.
Symptoms of second degree burns are-
- Redness with clear blisters.
- Wet or moist appearance.
- Yellow, white or splotchy skin.
Symptoms of third degree burns are-
- Numbness due to nerve damage.
- Waxy and leathery skin.
- Black or white burned skin.
Causes of Burns
Various external factor that causes burns may include-
- Hot liquids from exposure to hot tap water in a bath or shower, hot cooking oil or steam.
- Chemicals such as strong acids, paints or gasoline.
- An electrical voltage such as from electrical cords, electrical outlets and sometimes lightning.
- Radiation from ultraviolet lights (sun, tanning booths), X rays or radiation therapy.
- Hot metal, glass or other objects.
Risk Factors for Burns
Major risk factors are-
- Young children are more prone to burns.
- Use of alcohol and other illegal drugs.
- Too much sun exposure.
- Careless handling of combustibles (flammable substances).
- Careless smoking.
- Families with low socioeconomic status.
How to Prevent Burns?
You can take the following steps to reduce the risk of burns-
- Use sunscreen.
- Set the water heater in your home below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Always test the water in a shower or bath before entering or bathing a child.
- Keep out from the reach of chemicals, lighters and matches.
- When cooking, use the back burner of the stove as much as possible, turn the handle of pots and pans to avoid bumping into them, and don't leave the stove unattended.
- Keep children away from hot objects such as stoves.
- Install and test smoke detectors regularly in your home.
- Equip your home with fire extinguishers and know how to use them.
- Cover electrical outlets.
Diagnosis for Burns
The severity of a burn is determined by the size of body parts affected. Diagnosis always includes a physical examination and other diagnostic procedures.
During a physical examination, your doctor will examine the burned skin and check for the total body surface area involved.
Lab tests and X rays are also done to check for other injuries or determine if the burn has affected the rest of the body.
Treatment for Burns
Proper and quick treatment of burn will reduce the risk and severity of scarring. Most minor burns can be treated with home care. Treatment may include-
- Soaking the burn in cool water for 5 minutes or longer.
- Taking medications for pain relief.
- Applying burn cream and ointments to soothe the skin.
- Gauze bandage to protect the skin and reduce the risk of infections.
For serious or major burns, treatment may include-
- Wound dressing.
- Therapy, to help stretch the skin and encourage motion in the joints.
- Surgical procedures like skin graft, tube feeding, plastic surgery and breathing assistance.
Home Remedies for Burns
This oil is widely used for its medicinal values such as its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which helps in healing minor burns and prevents scarring.
Peppermint oil is rich in menthol, which provides a cooling effect on burns. In addition, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of peppermint oil can relieve pain and swelling associated with burns.
Tea tree oil-
Tea tree oil is known for its strong antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. These properties make it one of the best treatments for painful burns.
Aloe vera gel heals burns with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also prevents infection of wounds, scars and blistering.
Honey has a natural pH balance that prevents infections from burning. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which help burns heal faster.
Toothpaste relieves pain and soothes burn due to its cool minty nature. Milk- Milk is rich in zinc and protein, which can help soothe burns and heal faster.
The antiseptic properties of baking soda heals the burned area. Baking soda can also help restore your skin's natural pH balance, which in turn reduces pain and burning.
Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help cool down burns and prevents blisters and scars on burned skin.
Vinegar is a natural and antiseptic remedy which consists mainly of acetic acid. Acetic acid is known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. These properties of vinegar can be useful in treating and healing minor burns.
Rubbing a piece of raw potato on the burn will help relieve the pain and reduce the chances of blisters forming.
When to see a doctor?
Call your doctor if burns or blisters don't heal within two weeks.