Burns

General Illness Information

Common Name:
BURNS

Medical Term: None Specified

Description: Injury to the skin, and sometimes other organs, from contact with heat, radiation, electricity or chemicals.

Causes:

  • Rise in skin temperature form a heat source, such as fire, steam or electricity.
  • Open flame and hot liquid are most common causes.
  • Tissue injury caused by chemicals or radiation, including sunlight.
  • Lighting strikes can cause internal burns with minimal external signs.

Prevention:

  • Fireproof your home.
  • Install smoke alarms, plan emergency exits and have regular fire drills.
  • Wear protective gear and observe safety precautions around heat or radiation.
  • Don’t touch uncovered electrical wires.
  • Teach children safety rules for matches, fires, electrical outlets, cords and stoves.
  • If you have small children, put safety caps on unused outlets.
  • Discard frayed cords.
  • Wear sunscreen lotion outdoors.

Signs & Symptoms

Severity of a burn depends on the amount of tissue affected and the depth of the injury, which is described as first, second and third degree.

  • 1st degree burns are limited to the upper skin layer and the least severe. They produce redness, tenderness, pain, swelling and slight fever (minimal tissue damage). The burned area whitens when light pressure is applied to it but does not blister. Pain resolves in 48 – 72 hours.
  • 2nd degree burns affect deeper skin layers. Symptoms are more severe and usually include blisters. The base of the blisters may be red or white and are filled with clear, thick fluid. Heals within 10 – 14 days.
  • 3rd degree burns involve all skin layers. Skin is either white and soft (appears cooked), or black, charred and leathery, Because the burned area is pale, it may be mistaken for normal skin in fair-skinned people, but it does not blanch on pressure. There may be no pain in the initial stages and the burnt area may have no feeling when touched. Third degree burns are usually not painful because the nerve endings in the skin have been destroyed. Burnt areas cannot heal spontaneously.
    Risk Factors
  • Stress, carelessness, smoking in bed or excess alcohol consumption, all of which make accidents more likely.
  • Occupations involving exposure to heat or radiation, such as fire fighting, police work or defense-factory work.
  • Working with faulty wiring.
  • Hot water heaters set too high.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • Remove all clothing- especially that is smoldering, covered with hot tar or soaked with chemicals. In the case of chemicals, such as alkalis, acids and organic compounds, wash the skin off immediately with large amounts of water.
  • Apply non-prescription body lotion to cool 1st degree burns.
  • Immerse 1st degree, small 2nd or 3rd degree burn areas in cold water for 10 minutes to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Keep the burn area clean. Soak in a tub or use lukewarm compresses once a day. You may add 2 tablespoons of powdered detergent to the tub to help soak of crusting areas. Use plain water for compresses.
  • Prop the burn area higher than the rest of the body, if possible.
  • Hospitalization for all large 3rd degree burns and some 2nd degree burns. Hospitalization is also necessary in the following circumstances with burns involving the face, hands, genitals and feet, patients under 2 or over 70 years old nternal organs are burnt.
  • Surgery to graft skin over 3rd degree burns.

Medications:

  • To treat minor burns, you may use non-prescription antibiotic ointments, topical anesthetics and Tylenol.
  • To treat severe burns, pain relievers, antibiotics and tetanus booster shots may be required.

Activity:

Depends on location and extent of the burn. Getting a burn patient up and moving as soon as possible, after treatment begins, is an important part of the recovery.

Diet:

No special diet for minor burns. More severe burns require intravenous feeding.

Possible Complications :

  • Infection at the burn site.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Shock due to loss of fluids and electrolytes (severe burns).
  • Permanent scars.
  • Vision impairment, if eyes are injured.
  • Tetanus and other infections.

Prognosis

Healing depends on the depth of the burn and the location of the burn. In first degree and superficial second degree burn the dead skin sloughs off and a new layer of epidermis grows over quickly from the base of the burn ,to cover the layers below. Healing occurs with little or no scarring because the dermis (deeper layer of the skin) is not destroyed in the superficial burns. Skin usually repairs itself in 1 to 3 weeks

In the deeper burns in which the dermis is injured, healing takes place slowly and scarring is considerable. The burnt area tends to contract and as a result distorts the skin and may interfere with function especially if occurs across a joint. Third degree burns usually require skin grafting

Mild burns of the esophagus, stomach and lungs usually heal without any problems. However, in the case of severe burns healing occurs with scarring and narrowing. Scarring can cause difficulty with swallowing and may prevent the transfer of oxygen from the air to blood in the lungs.

Most patients recover if the extent of burns (including 3rd degree burns) is limited to 50% of the body surface. For less-severe burns, skin usually repairs itself within 1 to 3 weeks.

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