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Taking Care of Your Burns and Keeping Them Clean

Burn injuries whether it is first degree, second degree or third degree are very common and can happen to anyone; they can be devastating and life changing. It is estimated that 11 million burned patients worldwide needed medical attention in 2004 and about 300,000 patients died as a result of that (Peck, 2011). In the US more than 300 children ranging between the ages of 0-19 years are treated in the emergency room on a daily bases as a result of injuries related to burns and 2 children die as a result of their burns (CDC Data, 2012).

The most common complication of burn, is infection (Herndon, 2012). Signs and symptoms of infection may include; fever, foul smelling discharge from the area, increased redness in the surrounding area of the burn, increased swelling in the area and increased tenderness (pain) in the area. It’s very important to look for signs and symptoms of infection and contact your care provider right away if you notice any of the above symptoms.

It is important to keep your burns clean to avoid infection. When bathing the burn area, the first thing to do before getting into the shower or tub is to test the temperature of the water as the burned and new skin is sensitive to extreme cold or extreme hot water and can be injured easily. To avoid hot water burns and scalds, set the thermostat on your hot water heater to below 120 degree Fahrenheit (48.9 C).

Make sure that the area where bathing is taking place (shower or tub) is clean. Gently wash with a clean soft towel instead of vigorously rubbing as this will lesson any discomfort associated with bathing. Use your medications as described before washing your wound if you have any open area. Continue to wash the burn areas and apply the medication as directed and follow the instructions that you have been given to you by your treating physician.

During the healing process, the burned areas may appear and feel dry and scaly, the reason for that is because the glands which are responsible for lobrecating the skin and produce oil (Sebaceous Glands) are damaged or destroyed and until the time some of these glands begin functioning again, lubricants must be used to keep the skin moist. You should avoid using lubricants that contain alcohol or chemicals as they may irritate the skin and cause blister formation.

Also it is important to protect the 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 the exposure to sun especially in the peak hours (10am-3pm), if you have to then look for shady areas.
  • Wearing sunscreens with sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow the 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 the lips from burning.

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.