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June 23, 2011

Survivor Story: A Young Boy Overcomes His Severe Burns

In October 2006, Camryn Higgins suffered second- and third-degree burns to 65 percent of his body in an accidental backyard explosion at his Bastrop, Texas home. It was a Sunday morning, and he and his family was cleaning up after a seventh birthday party for Camryn the day before. His father was getting ready to light the grill for some outdoor cooking. Camryn, carrying a few chairs, also grabbed a lighter to take to his dad. But he tripped on a sidewalk and fell, and somehow the lighter emitted a spark. This ignited fumes from a nearby gas can.

"The backyard was full of smoke and I started hollering, 'Where's my baby, where's my baby?'" recalled Carl Higgins. "Finally he ran in front of me, and I noticed that he was on fire."

Emergency crews blocked traffic on a nearby highway and a medical helicopter landed to get the child to the Burn Center at Shriners Hospital for Children, in Galveston. Camryn was put on life support and doctors worried he would not survive. But several days later, the boy awoke to his astonished and deeply worried parents. Then the recovery had to begin--which included very painful baths to keep him from getting life-threatening infections.

"I remember every morning before they told me to get in the tub room, they asked: 'Do you want the pain pill or the pain popsicle?'" said Camryn, now 11 years old. "That tub room is no joke," said Camryn's father, Carl Higgins. "I don't think a grown man could sit there and go through that pain those kids went through."

"Every time it was time for him to go to the tub room, he called for prayer," remembered Camryn's mother, Katina White Higgins. "So we would call the pastor and pray early in the morning before Camryn went in."

"He would not enter that room unless we prayed; that was the only way he would go in. He would say, 'No, I'm not going in until we have prayer.' And then they had a CD that he liked, so we would put his music on and it was easier for Camryn."

"The hardest thing a parent will ever have to see is their child get scrubbed until they bleed," the mother continued. "You see that blood flowing in that tub and it's just a horrible thing. It's like pieces of your child just going down the drain and it's a horrible feeling."

The scrubbings were designed to remove the dead skin from Camryn's face, arms and torso. The medical staff at the Burn Center of the Shriners Hospital for Children rubbed hard to keep the boy's wounds from becoming infected.

But the good news is that at her moment of despair, Camryn's mom saw a therapist. "I went and spoke with the therapist and she gave me some really good advice. She said, 'Write everything down; write it all down.'" The result of that is "Camryn's Fire," a book that lays out the journey this family traveled on their way back to physical and emotional health. It was a journey that took Camryn's parents to the brink of divorce and their extended families to broken relations.

"I wanted to find out what was causing these things to happen and now I know the answer," Katina White Higgins said. "The answer is I'm being made by God to do this, and I'm going to be so much better after this is over. We were strong enough to take it and make something positive out of it, so that we can be advocates for children to be safe."

Camryn's mom is working on a new book called "I Am Different But We're All the Same." It's going to talk about a child who has been burned and who is coming back into the world with kids who are not burned. "We'll touch on how the child will look different after being burned, but the heart is the same and the love and the friendship is the same." Higgins plans to market the book in hospitals and schools to help children cope with such tragedies.

As for Camryn, here's an update: Every day, he slathers a medical cream over his scars and then does a round of push-ups. He's working out in anticipation of a summer football camp, to be followed by play on his school team in the fall. "When I grow up," he said, "I'm planning on going to University of Texas and playing football there," he said.

As for his scars: "My friend from a burn camp has her mom tell people that her burns were a tattoo from God showing his love," said Camryn. "So I really don't care what people think about how I look. I just care what I think. I think I look beautiful."

Then he smiled and struck a few body-builder poses. His parents smiled back, like people who have felt a heavy weight lifted from their hearts.

March 17, 2010

Wound Infection

Skin plays an important role in protecting the body against infection; see skin and infection. When there is a burn the risk of infection increases depending on the degree of the burn, location of the burn and the general condition of the patient.

Risk factors for developing an infection in a burn wound may include:

  • Improper wound care.

  • Extremes of age because of lower immunity.

  • Associated diseases like diabetes.

  • Full thickness burns.

  • Burns that involve more than 30% of the total body surface area (TBSA).

  • Burns in the perineum.

Infection is the most common complication of burns and is the major cause of death in burn victims, it can happen in the hospital or at home; it can be local (at the site of the burn)or systemic (spreading of infection to other areas in the body which may lead to septicemia and organ failure). It is important to contact your doctor immediately when you observe any of the signs and/or symptoms of infection.

Signs and symptoms of infection may include:


  1. Increased redness in or around the wound.

  2. Increased swelling in or around the wound.

  3. Increased or persistent pain.

  4. Increased drainage from the wound.

  5. Change in the color of the drainage (green discharge or pus).

  6. Foul smell from the wound.

  7. Heavy bleeding soaking the bandage.

  8. Chills or fever (usually greater than 101.5 degrees F).

  9. Persistent vomiting or diarrhea.

Burn wound infection prevention:

  • Keep the burned area clean.

  • Look for any signs or symptoms of infection during dressing change.

  • Follow a strict sterile protocol during wound dressing change (see home wound care).

  • It's important in infants to observe any change in the appearance of wound or change in activity level (not playful, fails to hold eye contact, lethargic) children can't express what they feel. Contact the doctor immediately if you observe any sign or symptom of infection.

  • Topical antibiotic ointments may be prescribed as a prophylactic (preventive) measure in burned patients.

  • Infection delays wound healing, encourages scarring (as a result of collagen deposition in reaction to the infection) and may result in bacteremia and organ failure (systemic infection).

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.