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How to Care for Your Burned Skin Following Hospital discharge (Part I)

Wound care at home is one of the important factors in the continuation of wound healing. You may be discharged from the hospital with unhealed wound areas that still require wound care. Before being discharged, the social worker will have a meeting with you to discuss your discharge arrangement. According to your burn severity and your needs, you may be sent home or to a rehabilitaion facility were you will be provided with services according to your needs such as Physical therapy (PT), Occupational therapy (OT), and Speech therapy (ST).

Being discharged home after a lengthy hospital stay is one of the exciting moments for a burned victim. Your healing skin requires special attention and care. Some of the facts that you should pay attention to include:

  • Skin dryness: when the skin is burned, the oil producing glands in the skin (Sebaceous glands) will be damaged or destroyed and your skin will appear dry and scaly. Until the time some of these glands will begin functioning again, lubricants are needed. Avoid using lubricant that contains chemicals or alcohol as they may lead to skin irritation and blister formation. Use the lubricants as directed by your treating physician.
  • Blisters: blisters occur in grafted or healed skin. Bumping against objects, friction and rubbing with linen can cause blisters. As the new skin matures and thickens, the tendency to form blisters decreases. Contact your burn clinic or treating physician when blisters when blisters form to take instructions on how to take care of them.
  • Exposure to sun: you should protect your new skin from the effect of sunlight as the new skin is more sensitive and takes shorter time to burn. Direct contact with sunlight should be avoided at all times. Protection from sunburn can be done by: limiting exposure to sun specially in the peak hours (10am-3pm), Wearing sunscreens with a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30, Applying sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure (to allow skin to absorb it); sunscreen absorbs ultraviolet light reducing the amount that reaches the skin, Wear sunscreens when swimming in an outdoor pool, Wear hats, protective clothing and sunglasses with UV protection, Use lip balm with sunscreen to protect lips from burning, Look for shady areas, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Exposure to cold: the new skin is thinner and with time it will mature therefore it will be more sensitive to cold. When the weather is cold, slight numbness and tingling may be experienced especially in the feet and hands, this sensation will decrease with time. Wearing warm cloth and avoiding cold exposure help in decreasing the discomfort.
  • Itching: the new skin is dry and scaly due to the destruction of the oil producing glands which take time for some of these glands to function again. Itching is usually associated with healing, dry and scaly skin. Vigorous scratching should be avoided as this may lead to a break in the healing skin as well as a superadded infection. Use lubricants (mineral oil, lotions) as needed. Contact your physician in case of severe itching as he/she may prescribe medications for that purpose.
  • Skin discoloration: skin discoloration that may be noticed in the healing area is a result of the normal healing process. The color may vary from light to brown or even gray in color as the discoloration varies depending on the natural color of your skin. The time needed for the skin to return to its natural color depends on the severity of burn as it may take several months in superficial and some second degree burns while others may take a longer time, some skin discolorations may be permanent in severe burns such as third degree burns.

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.