Burns: Quick guide

Burns How to Manage

September 21, 2019

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What is the most common cause for a kitchen burn?

The most common reasons for a kitchen burn would be direct contact with a heated surface such as a pot or the inside of an oven, hot fluids, and steam. These are by often inadvertent in that there is accidental contact in addition to potential spills.

 

Examples:

  • Contact with a hot surface such as a pot or the inside of an oven: lifting the top off a pan and realizing its way too hot or taking cookies out of the oven and accidentally touching the side of the oven 
  • Contact with hot fluids: pouring out spaghetti into a strainer and accidentally having boiling water splash
  • Contact with steam: opening the lid while food is cooking and having the steam burst up too quickly.





What are the different types of burns?
 
1st degree

Bright red changes to surface of skin, exquisites sensitive. No skin breakdown



2nd degree

Redness and swelling of the skin, blistering and pain 



3rd degree

Key distinguishing feature is numbness not pain- these have gone so deep as to affect the nerve endings. The skin can be charred and even whiten in some areas

 


What is the best way to manage each type of burn?

These are superficial. As soon as the burn occurs the very first step is to cool the skin quickly. Cool compresses or immersing in cold water quickly will help stop the burn from worsening. After this immediate period of time applying petroleum jelly a few times a day will help the skin heal quickly. This cannot be applied immediately after a burn- only after it has cooled.  And, taking acetaminophen for pain is helpful.


2nd degree

Same as for first degree, however these will require bandaging as well. Applying petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointments with a non stick dressing such as telfa and paper tape to hold in place will help. It is worth seeing a doctor to make sure antibiotics are not necessary as these burns are deeper and at higher risk for infection.


3rd degree

All of the above as for second but this will require the attention of your doctor. Given the full thickness burn, healing may require debridement (removal of dead tissue) and potentially a skin graft



How long does it take for burns to heal?

  • First degree: 1-3 weeks
  • Second degree: 2-4 weeks
  • Third degree : these will heal along the edges in a few weeks but there will definitely be scarring. 
**only other note is to keep in mind extent of burn as this will impact healing and need for medical attention 





Which types of burns can potentially scar? 


For first and second degree burns: if managed  appropriately as outlined above these do not usually scar. There may some changes in pigmentation afterwards for second degree burns but this can be avoided by keeping them moist and covered while healing.


Third degree burns will always leave a scar as they are full thickness and even if grafted the skin will not appear the same after.



How is it best to reduce the chances of scarring?


Following the above steps and avoiding scabbing or crusting in the wound as it heals as this impairs healing. So much so that if a scab forms, often these have to be removed (escharectomy) to promote wound healing. I remind my patients that our skin heals like a purse string from the outside in and requires a moist environment to promote wound healing with minimal scarring.








 

 

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