When it comes to skin burns, there are times when you can easily treat your wounds at home and more unfortunate incidents when your injury requires medical attention. Whether the burn was caused by overexposure to the sun’s damaging rays, from a chemical or hot liquid, or from electrical contact, burns can life-threatening and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
When to Seek Care for Your Burn
Minor burns, or 1st degree burns, are the ones many of us have gotten from accidentally grabbing a hot baking sheet or from a hair straightener. Those can cause pain and redness, which can be treated at home. If you have a more serious 2nd-degree burn, which causes splotches and blisters on the epidermis and dermis, or a 3rd-degree burn, which reaches the fat layer under the skin, you’ll need to seek medical attention right away. A 3rd-degree burn may become black, brown or white, cause the skin to become leathery in appearance, and even destroy nerves.
You’ll also need to seek professional care if the burn is caused by chemicals or electricity, if you have difficulty breathing, if the burn covers a large area of the body including the hands, feet, groin, face, or a major joint.
Medical Treatment: What You Can Expect
When your burn requires medical attention, there are a few things you can expect during care. The doctor’s ultimate goal is to clean the area, prevent infection, and promote healing. To clean the wound, the doctor may use ultrasound mist therapy. This painless procedure only takes a couple minutes and can kill more than 80 percent of the bacteria on the skin’s surface as well as stimulate the cells below the wound bed to help hasten healing.
During treatment, you may be given fluids through an IV to keep you hydrated and to protect organ health, in addition to pain and anxiety medications. Burn pain can be severe, particularly during dressing changes. The doctor may also apply topical burn creams or ointments, such as Silvadene or bacitracin to prevent infection. Depending on your situation, you may receive a tetanus shot or IV antibiotics.
Beyond the initial medical care, it may be recommended that you seek a physical therapist for an exercise routine, especially if the burn covers a large area or any joints. In addition to the physical needs that come with recovering from a traumatic burn, there is also the emotional need to feel like yourself again. Plastic surgery can repair the damaged tissue and also help with your appearance. Skin grafts are commonly used to replace scar tissue with healthy skin from a donor site on your own body. In time, with the right treatment, you’ll begin the journey back to you.