How To Prevent Scarring After A Burn Injury
An explosion can occur in the workplace, in the home or after a motor vehicle crash. No matter the cause, an explosion can leave victims with severe burns that are likely to turn into lifelong scars. Burn scarring occurs in about 70 percent of burn injury patients. These scars have the potential of causing both physical and psychological pain. Depending on what part of the body was injured, the patient’s range of motion may be limited. Moreover, the scar is a constant visual reminder of the traumatic event they had to experience.
Will my burn injury turn into a scar?
While there is not a definite answer, typically, the greater the severity of the burn, the greater the chances that a scar will be present. For example, less severe burns known as first-degree burns, take less than ten days to heal. Most of the time, first degree burns have no scarring. However, second-degree burns that heal in 14 to 21 days put the individual at risk of scarring. Further, third-degree burns are severe burns that take more than 21 days to heal. In some instances, third-degree burns that require skin grafting are at high risk of scarring.
Scarring after a burn usually develops within the first few months with a peak around six months and will resolve in 12-18 months. Scars tend to fade in color, flatten and become less sensitive as they mature.
Itching after a burn injury
Burns have the potential of damaging or completely destroying the oil glands that are meant to prevent the skin from getting too dry. Partial thickness burns (second-degree burns) are left with a few oil glands while full thickness burns (third-degree burns) are left with no oil glands. Dry, itchy scars will result from the lack of oil glands.
It is common for patients to experience intense itching after their burn. A moisturizer is a great way to reduce the uncomfortable itching. Ask your doctor to recommend a moisturizer that is best for your situation as they come in many varieties. For example, a high water content moisturizer tends to soak in the skin faster needing frequent application. Thicker moisturizers that typically come in a tube or jar have less water and can be applied less frequently.
Tips to help with an itchy scar
- Never use mineral oil, Vaseline or antibiotic ointments for moisturizing purposes. These products can lead to skin breakdown and allergic reactions.
- Moisturizers can be applied to all healed areas frequently throughout the day.
- At first, apply the moisturizer gently in thin layers. As your scars start to mature, add more pressure to help loosen the stiffness of the scars.
- Avoid soaking in a hot bathtub or using perfumed soaps because they will dry your skin further and intensify the itching.
Hypertrophic burn scars
The most common complication of a burn injury that leads to both functional and aesthetic impairments is called a hypertrophic burn scar. They develop when excess collagen fibers pull tissue across the injured area. These scars develop above the skin’s surface within the first few months of the injury and have a deep red to purple color.
Various issues may arise from a hypertrophic burn scar including uncomfortable itching that can lead to skin breakdown, depression because of the low self-esteem the scar has caused and sensitivity to the sun and chemicals. One of the more severe issues is contractures.
What are contractures?
Scars that develop across joints are known as contractures, which can affect your ability to properly take care of yourself and move around as you please. These scars may cause difficulty when squatting, sitting, walking or climbing stairs if your contractures involve your legs. Difficulty with self-grooming, eating, getting dressed and bathing may arise if your contractures involve your arms.
What can I do to prevent scarring after a burn injury?
While there is not a guarantee that a scar won’t form after a burn injury, the best treatment for a scar is prevention. Not all scars are 100 percent preventable, but you should be able to improve your chances of no scarring after a first-degree burn or minimize the scarring after a second-degree burn injury by following these tips:
- Rinse the affected area in lukewarm water and let the skin air dry.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment to the burn to help prevent an infection.
- Cover the burn with a nonstick bandage with gauze around it.
- To prevent contracture, stretch the burned area for a few minutes daily.
- If a blister forms, do not pop it! Once the blister pops on its own, cut away the dead skin.
- Avoid sun exposure to the burned area, as it will be sensitive for several months.
- Check in with your doctor to ensure your burn is healing properly.
If scarring is preventing you from performing certain activities, surgical treatment is an option. Talk to your physician for an evaluation if this is something you are considering.
Tips to help prevent contractures
Although not all contractures are avoidable, many can be prevented if the patient remains active in a rehabilitation program and takes care of their injury. Below are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Moisturize the affected area with a moisturizer recommended by your doctor
- Stretch for a minimum of five to six times daily
- Do as much for yourself as possible when getting dressed and grooming. Although the amount of time it takes for you to get ready is frustrating, movement and activity will improve your ability to move and take care of yourself.
Strong commitment from the patient is required to ensure the best result. Family members can help the burn victim by showing support and encouraging them to push through the frustration and not give up.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
We understand that some of the most devastating effects of an injury are the scars they leave behind. If you sustained burn injuries due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your past and future medical expenses, pain, suffering, a decrease in quality of life, lost wages and more. An Explosion Lawyer from The Carlson Law Firm has the experience and resources to help navigate the legal system. We can help you prove negligence to hold the party that caused your injuries accountable. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We care, we can help.
- Written by Adriana Torres