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Burns Affecting The Face

Facial burns can be very serious depending on the severity and the extent of the area involved. Facial burns can affect the epidermis, which is the first layer of the skin or can be deeper, affecting the dermis which is the second layer of the skin. From 2009-2013, more than 200,000 Emergency Department visits were nationally reported as a result of burns to the head and neck (Heilbronn et al, 2015).

Facial burns affecting the Epidermis can happen as a result of severe sunburns as well flash burns resulting from various explosions. These burns may be associated with pain, redness and swelling of the face (oedema); they usually heal without leaving a scar on the face.

Deeper burns affecting the Epidermis and the Dermis may result from thermal, chemical, electrical injuries or flash burns from gas explosion. These burns may be associated with swelling of the face and pain, but when they are deep enough affecting the nerve endings which convey pain sensation these burns can be less painful. Usually deep burns leave scarring on the face when they heal.

Facial burns are important because they may lead to serious consequences; including but not limited to:

  • Airway oedema and airway obstruction.
  • Eye injury.
  • Speech and swallowing dysfunction.
  • Facial sensory deficiency.
  • Facial scarring and disfigurement.

It is important to assess the following in a patient with facial burns while waiting for help to arrive:

  • Airway patency (can they breathe?)
  • Breathing
  • Circulation.
  • Inhalation injury
  • Associated injures that may result as the victim tries to escape from the cause of the burn.

The face is highly vascular and this gives it a high potential for self-healing when the burns are superficial. Topical antiseptic agents can be used to cleanse the burns on the face, to prepare for the application of further topical agents, or to prepare the burn for debridement (Ward, 1995). An example of an antiseptic agent is povidone iodine.

Topical antimicrobial agents are medications that play an important role in the topical burn treatment; they are used to minimize bacterial proliferation and fungal colonisation. The perfect antimicrobial agent used as a topical prophylactic agent would have a long acting duration, activity against a wide spectrum of micro-organism, the ability to penetrate dead and necrotic tissue without the body absorbing it, and having a low toxicity (Monafo 1990). Examples of antimicrobial agents are Silver nitrate and Silver sulphadiazine (SSD).

Alternative remedies are available in the form of topical therapy for the treatment of facial burns such as Aloe Vera gel which may expedite the rate of re-epithelisation (forming new tissue) and promote the wound healing process in partial thickness skin burns (Maenthaisong 2007). Honey is also another remedy that has been used for superficial and partial thickness burns, it is said to prevent bacterial overgrowth, form a physical barrier and may lead to more rapid healing.

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.