Burn Injuries and How To Treat Them

Summertime in Michigan is here, which means bonfires, cookouts and fireworks! Though these warm weather activities can be a lot of fun when performed safely, they can also be the cause of some serious injuries to your hands and body. In this blog, we’ll be discussing burn related injuries from work and play and how these injuries are treated.

Types of Burns

Since burn injuries arise from a single incident rather than degenerative over time, they are able to affect any gender, age or race. Burns from heat (fires) in seasonal states tend to be more frequent during the warmer months due to the increase in outdoor activities, such as bonfires and outdoor grilling. More often, these burns occur due a simple mistake rather than an uncontrolled fire. Accidents such as quickly touching hot items that have fallen from the fire to get them out of the way, or moving hot, greasy food on the grill with your hands can cause a slight to severe burn.

July is a prevalent month for firework injuries. While avoiding these injuries may seem like common sense, but there are still thousands accidents from fireworks that occur every year. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report from 2019 estimated there were roughly 10,000 reported injuries in the United States related to fireworks, the majority of which took place from the end of June to the end of July.

Not all burns are caused by fire. Depending on your work setting or what you keep at home, chemical burns can also occur when safety precautions fail. While the source of the burn is different, the treatment methods for these injuries are often the same as a thermal burn. Another less popular but still worth mentioning burn stems from an unfortunate disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, causes it’s suffers to have persistent thoughts and behaviors that are out of their control. Many people with OCD have an obsession with cleanliness, such as washing their hands over and over and over to make them clean. Sadly, this obsession has caused some of our patients to take extreme measures to reach a level of cleanliness; including using harsh chemicals (causing a chemical burn) or holding their hands in boiling water.

How Are Burns Treated?

The severity of your burn will dictate which treatment options are best for you. Generally, burn intensity is based on how long your body was exposed to the fire or chemical, and the temperature of exposure for thermal burns.  We’ve all heard of different “degrees” of burns, but here is the breakdown:

  • 1st Degree Burns are the most basic. Your skin turns red and can be slightly sensitive, but does not cause any blistering or scaring.
  • 2nd Degree Burns cause some damage to the skin. Thickening the affected area slightly and causing some blistering.
  • 3rd Degree Burns go deeper into your skin, causing swelling, changes in your skin color and texture and likely pain in your nerve endings.
  • 4th Degree Burns cause even further damage; affecting your bones and joints.

Slight burns can be treated with over the counter pain medication and washing as needed with soap and water to keep the area clean. Once blistering occurs, the burn should be treated with burn ointment and covered to avoid infection. During periods when your hands are not in use, bandages can be removed, the area cleaned and then left to air out do the blister can dry.

Burns that affect lower levels of skin with further damage could require reconstructive surgery, involving skin grafts and nerve repair, if possible. However, for severe burns, sensational changes in the affect area are commonly persistent even after surgery.  The damage may lead to long lasting issues that require additional procedures and occupational therapy for further rehabilitation.

Do’s and Don’ts After A Burn

  • DO immerse the burn in cool running water for several minutes to stop the burning
  • DO remove items that are restrictive, such as rings and bracelets
  • DO keep the wound clean and covered (if blistered). Apply burn ointments for healing
  • DO see your PCP or a hand specialist if pain continues, large blisters form or you have changes to your skin color and sensations
  • DO call 911 or report to the nearest emergency room if your burn is urgent
  • DO NOT pop or puncture any blisters
  • DO NOT use ice or cold water
  • DO NOT apply butters, oils or fragrant creams to blisters
  • DO NOT wait to see a physician if your burn is serious

Sources

https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/2019-Fireworks-Annual-Report.pdf

https://www.assh.org/handcare/condition/how-to-treat-a-burn

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