5 Myths About Burn Treatment: Knowing the Facts Could Save Your Life

Do you remember the first time you burned yourself as a child by touching a hot stove or the first time you got a sunburn from too much sun exposure and your mother informed you that, thankfully, you didn't need to go to the doctor? While your mother likely knew that your burn was not a severe health hazard, do you know when a burn is severe and needs prompt medical treatment? Due to skin burns being so common and the fact that many are, in-fact, first-degree burns that can be treated at home, many people simply don't know when a burn is not just a "boo-boo" and is instead a very serious health hazard that needs to be treated at a medical emergency center. Read on to learn the truth behind three common myths about burn treatment so you know what not to do after experiencing a burn and when a burn requires emergency medical care. 

Myth #1: All Sunburns Should Be Treated at Home

Sunburns are one of the most common types of burns in America and many other countries, and most people today know that too much sun exposure contributes to skin-cancer development later in life. However, many people simply don't know when sunburns require emergency medical care. 

While mild sunburns are typically first-degree burns, the sun can also cause second-degree burns and even more severe burns called as "sun poisoning." Anyone who experiences the signs of second-degree sunburn or sun poisoning needs to visit an emergency medical professional for treatment of the burn and the often-accompanying heat-stroke or heat-exhaustion. 

What are the signs of severe sunburns? Blisters signal a second-degree burn, and symptoms of sun poisoning include dizziness, exhaustion, fever, and nausea. Blisters can easily become infected, and an emergency medical professional may drain blisters to prevent infection, prescribe special burn dressings, or prescribe antibiotics to treat existing infection. Due to the extensive sweating that can occur with too much sun exposure, IV fluids may also be administered to replenish lost body fluids and electrolytes. 

Myth #2: You Should Apply Ice or Butter to Burns

While, thankfully, the myth that butter applied to any type of burn is slowly dying (butter and creamy burn dressings trap heat in the skin), many people still reach for that ice pack or ice cube and place it on their skin to cool off a burn. While ice does feel good on a mild burn due to the cooling effect, health professionals now advise people with burns to skip the ice and run burned skin under cool water instead. 

There are actually several reasons you shouldn't ice a bad burn. First, applying ice to your skin causes the blood vessels in it to constrict, and that lessens blood flow to the burned area of skin. Blood contains vital nutrients that your skin needs to heal, and lessening blood flow to a burn can drastically slow healing. In addition, due to the numbing effect of ice, it can be all too easy to leave the ice on your skin for an extended period of time and end up giving yourself frostbite. 

If a burn continues to feel very painful after your running it under cool water for 15–20 minutes, then that is a sign that it may be a more severe burn than you think it is and that you should have it checked out by a medical professional. 

Myth #3: The Severity of a Burn Is All That Counts During Treatment

When deciding whether a burn can be fully treated at home or not, it is important to not only consider whether it is a first- second- or third-degree burn, but also consider the type of burn and the body parts that are burned. Medical professionals advise that anyone who experiences a chemical burn visit an emergency medical center for further treatment after they thoroughly rinse their skin with cool water and remove all contaminated clothing. A medical professional can take further steps remove all traces of the chemical that may have seeped into the skin's pores; if all chemical residue is not thoroughly removed from the skin, the burn can actually continue to worsen over time. 

In addition, you should visit a medical professional if you experience burns to your face or neck because professionals can take steps to prevent skin swelling that often accompanies even mild burns; this swelling could affect your airways and make it difficult for you to breathe. Also, burns to your hands, feet, buttocks, and groin area should be treated by a professional; these areas are more prone to infection simply due to where they are located on your body. 

While mild skin burns are common, you should never just assume a burn is mild and can be treated at home. Forget these myths about burn treatment to help you and your loved ones always get the medical care they need after experiencing a burn that requires more than just at-home care.