Burn Injuries: When Should I Treat at Home and When Should I Go to the ER?

Burn Injuries: When Should I Treat at Home and When Should I Go to the ER? Everyone experiences some type of minor burn injury now and then. Most people have experienced sunburn on hot summer days. Just holding a too-hot beverage can cause a minor irritation of the skin. Some burn injuries can be handled at home with standard treatments. Other burn injuries are so severe that victims can’t breathe and are in agonizing pain. These victims require immediate care at a burn center or a local emergency room. The general rule about burn injuries, however, is if there’s an ounce of doubt, you should be examined by a physician as quickly as possible. If you or a loved one sustained serious burns, call the injury attorneys at Silverman, McDonald, & Friedman in Wilmington, Seaford, or Newark today to discuss your rights.

What are the common causes of burn injuries?

There are four different types of burn injuries – thermal, electrical, chemical, and radiation burns. Many injuries happen at home, but they can also occur at work. Some of the causes include:

  • Contact with fires or flames
  • Thermal and scalding burns, such as touching something that is extremely hot (a stove, furnace, a pot, or an overheated beverage)
  • Car accidents and other types of vehicle accidents
  • Contact with power lines and other electrical sources
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Exposure to the sun, X-rays, and other radiation sources

What are the different degrees of burn injuries?

The Mayo Clinic classifies burn injuries as follows:

  • First-degree burns. This level of burn affects just the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). Symptoms include redness and pain.
  • Second-degree burns. This level of burn affects both the epidermis and the second layer of skin (dermis). Symptoms include swelling and red, white, or splotchy skin. Other symptoms include blisters and severe pain. Deep second-degree burns can result in scarring.
  • Third-degree burns. This level of burn goes deep into the fat layer beneath the skin. The affected skin may be white, black, or brown. The skin may appear leathery. Nerves can be destroyed by third-degree burns, causing numbness.

When should you go to the emergency room for a burn injury?

Orlando Health provides the following advice for when you should seek immediate medical help and when your burn injuries may be treated at home. The following factors help determine the severity and degree of your burn injury. The higher or more intense the factor, the more seeing a doctor is critical:

  • The size and location of the burn. A burn that is bigger than the size of one of your hands located on your arm, leg, or trunk. Or, if the burn is on your face, genitalia, eyes, elbow, knee, wrist, or another cross-joint, seek immediate medical attention.
  • If the blister is bigger than a quarter, seek medical attention.
  • The level of pain. If the pain is intolerable, even if the burn seems minor, go to your nearest emergency room.

Other indicators that you should go to an emergency room include redness around the burn, an increase in swelling, a change in drainage, and any numbness around the burn.

The Mayo Clinic also adds that you should see a physician if:

  • The burns are deep, affecting all layers of the skin or deeper tissues.
  • The burns are chemical or electrical burns.
  • The burn shows signs of being a third-degree burn. Precaution dictates seeking medical help for second-degree burns too.
  • You have difficulty breathing or your airways feel blocked.
  • There are any signs of infection – redness and swelling, more pain, or oozing from the wound.
  • Significant scarring.

First-aid measures should be considered while you’re waiting for medical help.

Delaware burn injury victims may also need to be treated at a specialized burn center. These centers can perform surgeries, provide nutritional support, and physical rehabilitation.

Medical treatments for severe burn injuries include water-based treatments, providing fluids to prevent dehydration, medications, creams, ointments, dressings, and other care. Patients may require surgery to help them breathe, get nutrients, and reduce the blood flow around the wound.

Skin grafts to replace scar tissue and plastic surgery to improve the appearance of scars and improve joint flexibility may be required. Burn injury victims often benefit from psychological care if their scars are visible to others – or if the scars affect their self-esteem.

When can you treat burns at home?

Orlando Health recommends that home health care for a burn may be advisable if none of the indicators for ER care are present. If any of those factors do become apparent, however, don’t wait. Seek medical help now.

Home health care for burns includes:

  • Rinsing the burn in lukewarm water to cleanse the skin of any debris or hot substances.
  • Do not apply ice. Ice decreases circulation to the damaged skin, and blood circulation is essential for healing wounds.”
  • Remove any jewelry, especially on your hands, because the burn injury may swell.
  • If the burn is closed (meaning there’s no open skin), apply a moisturizer to treat the itching and dryness. Cocoa Butter Cream is one type of moisturizer Orlando Health recommends.
  • Only use ointments or topical products if the wound is open. “Burns will open after blisters and burned skin separate or are removed. If the burn is open, be sure to keep [the burn] covered with ointment and gauze to prevent the burn from drying out.”
  • Use dressings and nonstick gauze once or twice a day. Clean the burns with soap and water “to remove drainage or loose skin prior to each reapplication of dressings.”
  • Elevate a burn on your arm or leg when seated to prevent swelling. Continue this remedy until the open wound closes.
  • Movement and gentle exercises can help.

Unless you have allergies or other health issues, over-the-counter products such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help treat your pain. Check with your doctor and/or pharmacist first to be sure the OTC products are safe for you.

After the burns heal, continue to keep the skin moisturized to avoid peeling and itching. Per Orlando Health, avoid sun exposure of the burn injury for one year. This includes wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sun-protective clothing if the burn is on your face, neck, or ears.

At Silverman, McDonald, & Friedman, our Delaware personal injury lawyers have earned the praise of former clients and the legal community for our dedication to our clients, our thorough preparation of your claim, our ability to negotiate with insurance adjusters, and our skill at arguing your case in court. We’ll work with your burn injury providers to determine the degree and severity of your burn injuries, all the medical care you’ll need, and every way your burns affect your personal and work life. To schedule a free consultation in our Wilmington, Newark, or Seaford offices; please call us at 302-888-2900 or complete our contact form.