Burns are caused when the skin is exposed or comes in contact with heat, fire, excess sunlight, hot objects, medical radiations, electrical or chemical contacts. Acute Thermal Burn Injury Burns result in tissue damage which when not treated on time could lead to infections. The severity of the burn depends on the number of layers of the skin affected and the extent of tissue damage.
Most people experience burn as a result of a fire accident or when they come in contact with substances that can cause burns. Acute Thermal Burn Injury are short-term burns that be easily treated and they heal faster, unlike chronic burns.
Causes of burns
Acute Thermal Burn Injury is caused when the skin comes in contact or exposed to a very hot object or condition. Causes of burns include:
- Extreme sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet radiation
- Electrical currents
- Hot metals or other objects
- Hot liquid or steam
- Strong acids and other harsh chemical substances
- Medical radiation
- Molten liquid
Symptoms of thermal burns
Thermal burns cause injuries to the different layers of the skin. The skin is made up of three layers which include:
- The epidermis (outer layer)
- The dermis (inner layer)
- The subcutaneous tissue
The type and severity of the burn depend on the layers of skin affected. Burns is of three degrees known as first, second and third-degree burns.
The symptoms of each degree are quite different from each other. However, severe burns may include three degrees of burns.
First degree burns are minor burns that only affects the epidermis. Symptoms and signs include redness around the affected area, mild pain, the affected area may become moist.
The second-degree burns are burns that affect the epidermis and dermis. Symptoms include reddish coloration, swelling, blisters may develop, white or splotchy skin, more severe pain. The hair around the burnt area is usually gone.
This is the most severe type of burn. It affects the epidermis, dermis, and down to the subcutaneous tissues. In this degree of burn, the nerve endings, hair follicles, tiny sweat glands, and tiny blood vessels are all destroyed. Extreme cases might involve damage to the bone and muscles.
Symptoms of third-degree burns include blackish, brownish or whitish coloration around the burnt area, the skin may look leathery, numbness or no feeling of pain due to damage of nerves.
Diagnosis of Acute Thermal Burn Injury
Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination to assess the severity of the burn. Your skin will be examined and he or she will access the amount of surface area burnt.
It more than 10 percent of your total body surface area is burnt, you may be transferred to a facility that specializes in the treatment of burns.
You may also undergo lab tests, X-rays, MRI scans or other diagnostic procedures if the degree of burn is severe.
Treatment of Acute Thermal Burn Injury
The treatment options for burns depends on its severity. Minor burns can be easily treated at home with home remedies. Severe burns require medical attention. Before a burn is treated, the affected area is first accessed and given first aid treatment.
Treatment options include:
Home remedies treatment is for mild burns such as contact with hot steam, liquid or hot object. Sunburns can also be treated with home remedies.
- Cool water -Apply cool water or a cloth deep in cool water on the burned area 30 seconds. This helps to reduce the burning sensation. It is not advisable to apply ice as it may worsen the injury or cause skin blisters.
- You may also take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the pain. You can use a triple antibiotic ointment to aid healing and prevent infections. In case of any blisters, do not remove them by yourself.
Medical treatments include medications and other medical products that are used in the treatment of burn. They include:
- Pain relieve medication: The pain from a burn can be very excruciating. Pain relieve medications such as morphine and other anti-anxiety medications are used to relieve pains.
- Burn creams and ointments: Cream and ointments for burns are used to prevent infections and enhance healing. Topical medications such as bacitracin and silver sulfadiazine are used to treat burns and prevent infections.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics and tetanus shot may also be used to prevent infections.
- Water-based treatments: Water-based treatments such as ultrasound mist therapy may be used to clean and stimulate the wound tissue. Fluids such as intravenous fluids may be used to prevent dehydration and organ failure.
Dressing and bandage
Before covering up the burned area, first, clean up the area and remove the blisters. Blisters on the soles of the feet or the palms may not be removed. After properly cleaning the burned area, it should be covered up with a bandage or dry gauze.
Physical and occupational therapy
Physical and occupational therapies are needed for severe cases of burns over a large area of the body. These therapies help to stretch the skin so that the joints can remain flexible. It helps you to be able to carry out your normal daily activities and bodily movements.
There are different types of surgical procedures that a patient can undergo depending on severity and damages caused by the burn. These include:
- Breathing assistance procedure: This is done if you were burned on the face or neck and your throat may have been affected. You may find it difficult to breathe. In cases like this, a procedure will be done where your doctor may insert a tube down your trachea to help keep oxygen supply to your lungs.
- Insertion of a feeding tube: If you find it difficult to eat with your mouth due to the severity of the burn, your doctor may insert a feeding tube through your nose to your stomach to aid feeding. Food in liquid form will be passed through the tube to your stomach.
- Procedure to ease blood flow around the wound: In cases whereby burn has led to poor blood circulation around the burn area, a procedure may be done to aid blood circulation.
- Skin grafts: If the tissues or skin around a specific part of the body was badly burnt or damaged, your doctor may perform a skin graft procedure to replace the damaged or burnt tissue.
- Plastic surgery: Plastic surgery is a procedure whereby the burnt area is reconstructed to improve its appearance. It helps to reduce the scars and also enhances the flexibility of joints around the affected area.
When to see a doctor
For minor burns, you may not need to see your doctor. However, you may need to see a doctor if:
- The burn causes the skin to look leathery
- Your hands, feet, face, buttocks, groin, or major parts and joints in your body are affected.
- The burn is caused by chemical or electricity
- You are experiencing difficulty in breathing
- The burns have patches of black, brown or white.
- There are signs of infections or increased pains or swelling.
- The burn is not healing on time.
- You are experiencing unexplained symptom
Risks and complications
The degree of burns determines the extent of risks and complications that may occur. Complications may include:
- Loss of fluid
- Low blood volume
- Low body temperature
- Bacterial infection which could lead to bloodstream infection
- Bone and joint problems caused by tightening of the skin.
- Muscles and tendons contractures
- Scars around the burned area
- Breathing problems
Prevention of burns
To prevent burns, you need to stay away from fire and avoid hot objects. You can prevent burns by:
- Keeping hot liquids out of reach
- When cooking, turn pot handles toward the rear of the cooking gas.
- Use insulators to cover up pot handles.
- Be very careful when cooking and avoid kids coming into the kitchen when cooking.
- Keep electrical appliances away from moist and water
- Avoid areas with high electrical voltage
- Unplug irons and other appliances when not in use
- Avoid things that could ignite a fire.
- Stay clear of fireplaces
- Avoid very high sunlight
- Always maintain fire safety procedures
- Do not light a cigarette close to materials that could catch fire. Smoke only in a safe area.
- Avoid inflammable chemicals and gas
- Make sure all electronic gadgets are in good working conditions
- Keep matches and inflammable substances out of the reach of children.
- Do not bathe with water that is too hot
- Keep a fire extinguisher in strategic places where you can easily reach them around your house
- Have smoke detectors in your house.
- Always wear protective materials when using chemicals or harsh substances.
- Using protective gloves when touching hot objects.
- Always be alert in case of a fire outbreak and take necessary measures to ensure your safety.