When It Burns
Thinking it will “never happen to my kid” is easy, but every day more than 300 children ages 0-19 are treated in emergency rooms for burn injuries, and two of those children will die as a result. Younger children are more likely to suffer from burns caused by hot liquids or steam, and older children from flames of fire (CDC.gov). Minor burns often can be treated at home, but more serious burns require medical attention. Burns are categorized on three different levels, known as degrees. The degree, based on how badly the skin is damaged, determines what course of treatment should be taken (KidsHealth.org).
First-degree burns are the mildest of the three, affecting only the top layer of the skin. This burn causes redness, pain and minor swelling and usually heals in three to six days. The skin that was burned may peel off after one or two days.
Second-degree burns penetrate beneath the top layer of the skin, are more serious and often require medical attention. These burns produce blisters, severe pain and redness. The blisters can break open and appear wet with a bright pink or red color. Depending on severity, the burn can take three weeks or more to heal.
Third-degree burns are the most serious. They involve all the layers of the skin and underlying tissue. The burn victim may experience little to no pain at the time of the injury because of nerve damage. The skin can appear dry and look either white, brown, leathery or charred. Healing time varies depending on the severity. These burns often require skin grafts, where healthy skin is taken from another part of the body and placed over the burn to help the area heal (KidsHealth.org).
Knowing how to treat burns can be a little more difficult: It all depends on the degree of burn and the amount of skin it covers. Cool water or a cool compress can relieve the pain of a minor burn. But don’t put ice on the wound or apply any ointments, oils or sprays over the affected area. If a blister has formed, do not break it (HopkinsMedicine.org). Keep the area clean and dry. If the burn isn’t oozing, place a dry gauze over the affected area. Seek medical attention immediately if the burns appear to be third degree, affect more than 10 percent of the body or involve the face, hands, feet, genitals or a moveable joint—or if the child is very young or difficult to treat at home.
Jessica Heine is a labor and delivery nurse. She lives in Olathe with her family.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.