Summer is the time when we see an increase in burn-related injuries. Several factors contribute to that—first, 4th of July is a time that significantly increases exposure to fire and the surrounding dangers. Second, camping and outdoor BBQs are much more common in the summer months. The exposure to fire is increased when you have those activities. Nevertheless, there are far too many firework-related burns every year. These can be prevented but those preventions are for another blog. This blog will let you know how severe your burn may be and what can be done to fix the resulting scarring, if there be any.
Severity of Burns
We have all heard about first, second and third-degree burns. But, if you are like me, you can easily be confused about which is the worst and which is not as bad. There can also be a 4th-degree burn as well. So here is a small, simple chart with a breakdown, going from least severe to most severe.
|Severity||Appearance||Healing time (estimated)|
|First Degree—least severe||Some general reddening,
looks like severe sunburn
but likely no blisters.
|About a week, maybe
|Second Degree—severe||Clear blisters and
reddening. This hurts,
a lot. Can get infected if blisters pop. Can ooze.
|14-21 days, maybe
sooner. STAY OUT
OF THE SUN.
|Third Degree—extreme||Off white color. Could
blister but will not be
as red as 1 or 2. Serious
|Can take months.
It will be very, very
painful. Could leave
|Fourth Degree–dire||Black, charcoal. So
serious and lethal
you don’t even feel it.
|May kill you, loss of
limbs. May never
heal. You don’t
How to Treat a Burn
Now we have the severity above—but what can you do to fix it? There are several options and we have seen some miraculous recoveries in cases we have had. First, if you are burned, time is the best cure. The skin is an amazing organ and can regenerate and heal like you have never seen. We recently had a case where a young man was renting a home and the furnace blew up in his face. It was backdraft type explosion where some of the gas was leaking but the pilot wasn’t lighting. The build-up created a small bomb that exploded in his face, knocked him out and sent him to the University of Missouri’s Burn Unit. To this day, I am stunned at his recovery. He looks great, as if nothing happened. But it took time, a lot of time and was very painful. And it was not cheap.
We have also seen cases where someone is spraying lighter fluid on an open flame. What can happen there is the fire moves so fast, it goes up the lighter fluid like a fuse, into the bottle and explodes. Essentially, flames are then thrown onto you. It is very dangerous and can cause serious facial scarring because the fire in that case is very, very hot because of the synthetic chemicals. The same happens with fireworks—the burn temperature gets much hotter than a normal wood-fire. It can leave significant scars.
After you have given the scars time for healing and applied all the ointments, you can now evaluate the potential for a surgical revision. It takes a very skilled plastic surgeon to do this and we are lucky to have several in St. Louis who we have used before. They are true professionals and do amazing work. But it is not cheap. Surgeries like these can costs tens of thousands of dollars and can add up very quickly. At times, more than one procedure is necessary. You have surgeon fees, first assistant fees, nursing fees, anesthesiologist fees, drugs costs, surgical center fees, etc…. It can quickly get out of hand.
The best way to treat burns—take precautions to avoid them. Be smart when grilling or using fireworks. Many times, drinking can be involved. It is a dangerous combination. If you ever have questions about a burn you or a loved one as suffered, don’t hesitate to contact us. We will help point you in the right direction.