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Thermal (Heat or Fire) Burns (cont.)

How Can I Prevent Thermal Burns?

Burns are easy injuries to prevent, use common sense.

  • Do not allow young children to play with matches or materials that can cause a fire.
  • Do not smoke cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in bed.
  • Set the water temperature in your home's hot water heater to 120-125°F. Also, turn the hot water off before the cold water when taking a bath or shower. This will prevent scald-type burns.
  • Turn pot-handles to the inside on the stove so that toddlers and young children cannot reach up and pull them down. If stove controls are on the front of the stove or if the stove top is accessible to a toddler or young child, erect a barrier to prevent touching of hot surfaces.
  • Do not carry a child and hot liquids at the same time. Also, do not leave cups, mugs, or bowls containing hot liquids at the edge of a table where a toddler or young child can reach up and pull them down onto themselves.
  • Teach children to respect fire and not to play with fire or burning objects. Instruct them in the techniques of 'stop, drop, and roll' to put out flames on their clothing.
  • As a family, put together a fire escape plan and practice it.
  • Install smoke detectors in the house and check them regularly.

What Is the Outlook for Thermal Burns?

Most minor burns can be treated at home and will heal fine without scarring. Extensive burns, severe burns in critical areas, such as the face, genitals, hands, or feet, and burns in infants or the elderly may require hospitalization and care by a specialist in burns.

Besides scarring, another complication of burns is infection. This is uncommon with good wound care as directed by the doctor and use of a topical antibiotic ointment. Nevertheless, if infection does occur, a doctor should be consulted so that he or she may start an oral antibiotic and follow the burn closely with frequent follow-ups.

Signs of infection include redness, increased pain in the area, drainage of pus, swelling, and fever.

Pictures of Thermal Burns

Superficial burn. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin.
Superficial burn. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin.
Superficial partial-thickness burn without blisters. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin.
Superficial partial-thickness burn without blisters. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin. Click to view larger image.

Superficial partial-thickness burn. This image demonstrates associated blister formation. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin.
Superficial partial-thickness burn. This image demonstrates associated blister formation. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin. Click to view larger image.

Deep partial-thickness burn. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin.
Deep partial-thickness burn. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin. Click to view larger image.

Partial-thickness and full-thickness burns from structure fire. Note facial involvement. Image courtesy of Roy Alson, MD, PhD.
Partial-thickness and full-thickness burns from structure fire. Note facial involvement. Image courtesy of Roy Alson, MD, PhD. Click to view larger image.

Full-thickness burn. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin.
Full-thickness burn. Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Meyer, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, University of Wisconsin. Click to view larger image.

Rule of Nines for calculating burn area. Image courtesy of Roy Alson, MD, PhD.
Rule of Nines for calculating burn area. Image courtesy of Roy Alson, MD, PhD. Click to view larger image.

Child with burns from a scald. Hot soup was spilled when the child grabbed the handle of a pot. Note full-thickness burn to left upper chest. Swelling of lips and blisters on face and nose indicate second-degree burns of face. Image courtesy of Roy Alson, MD, PhD.
Child with burns from a scald. Hot soup was spilled when the child grabbed the handle of a pot. Note full-thickness burn to left upper chest. Swelling of lips and blisters on face and nose indicate second-degree burns of face. Image courtesy of Roy Alson, MD, PhD. Click to view larger image.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

American Burn Association


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/16/2016

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Burns, Thermal »

Burn injuries account for an estimated 700,000 annual emergency department (ED) visits per year.

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