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Preventing and Caring for Burns

A burn victim

Print the full article here!

Burns are a very common injury.

Most people have experienced a minor burn at some time in their life.

  • Many burns can happen around your own home.

Even if you get a minor burn, it can still be painful.

Serious or infected burns can become major health issues.

You can get a burn when your skin touches something hot.

For example, you can get a burn when your skin touches:

  • A hot surface (such as a pot or pan)
  • A hot liquid (such as hot water or coffee)
  • Hot air (such as steam coming out of a pot)

You can also get a burn from spending time in the sun without wearing sunscreen or protective clothing.

Anyone can get a burn.

But, people with developmental disabilities are more likely to be burned than others.

Burns are more likely to happen to people who may:

  • Have trouble with moving and balance
  • Not have a good sense of touch
  • Have more sensitive skin due to medications
  • Have poor vision

Most people are burned at home, but you can protect yourself!

The two most common rooms for burns are the bathroom and the kitchen.

  • People are often burned in the bathroom because of very hot water.
  • People are often burned in the kitchen while they are cooking or eating.

Here are some ways you can stay safe in your bathroom.

Before you get into a bath or shower you should always check the water temperature with your hand.

  • You can ask a support provider or family member to check the water temperature for you.

You can clearly mark the hot and cold knobs on your faucets so you will be able to tell which knob you want to turn.

You should make sure the water in your house cannot get too hot.

You can ask a support provider or family member to contact your gas or electric company and tell them to set the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees F or lower.

  • This will make sure that the water in your bathtub or shower can never get hot enough to burn you.

You can also protect yourself from burns in your kitchen!

When cooking, you should always turn the handles of pots and pans toward the back of the stove.

You should use potholders to pick up hot items.

  • If you are not sure if something is hot, you should always use a potholder.

You can ask for help if a pot or pan is too heavy for you to carry yourself.

Here are some more ways you can stay safe in the kitchen.

You can place a rubber mat in front of your stove to prevent falls and burns.

If you use a wheelchair, you can place a large sturdy tray on your lap when you are carrying hot food or drink items.

  • This will help to prevent lap burns and dangerous spills.

You can also prevent burns in other common places.

You should be careful while ironing.

  • When you are finished, turn the iron off right away.

Before leaving a car parked outside on a hot day, you can hide the seatbelts’ metal latches in the seat.

  • This will prevent the latches from getting too hot and burning you.

There are three types of burns. A first degree burn is very minor.

Your skin will feel red and painful, may swell a little bit, and will turn white when you press on it.

These are very minor burns that usually do not require medical attention.

You could get a first degree burn if you quickly touch a hot pot or pan when you are cooking.

A second degree burn is more serious than a first degree burn.

Your skin will have blisters and be painful, turn red and splotchy, and may swell a lot.

These are more serious, but usually only require medical attention if they become infected.

You could get a second degree burn by spilling very hot soup or coffee on your skin.

You can usually treat small first and second degree burns at home.

The first thing you should do if you experience a small burn is to soak it in cool (not cold) water.

  • Do NOT apply ice to the burn.
  • Do NOT apply butter or oil to the burn.
  • Cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth.

You should tell a support provider or family member about your burn and you can ask for their help to care for it.

You should keep your burn clean while it is healing.

While your burn is healing, you should make sure to keep it clean by using soap and cool water. This will help you avoid an infection.

You can ask a support provider or family member to help you keep your burn clean.

Burns can make your skin feel itchy as they heal.

  • Try not to scratch the skin around your burn.

You should see a doctor if:

The burn is on your face, hands, feet, or genitals

The burn is not getting better after about a week

You experience signs of infection - such as increased pain, swelling, or pus

Third degree burns are the most serious and dangerous.

Your skin will probably look white or charred.

You need to immediately go to the hospital.

You may not feel any pain or have any feeling in the skin around the burn.

You could get a third degree burn if you are trapped in a burning house or car.

Call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room.

If you or someone you are with experiences a serious burn, you must go to the hospital right away.

Do not take off any clothing that is stuck to the burn.

Do not soak the burn in water or apply any ointment.

Your third degree burn will need to be treated in the hospital.

Third degree burns can take a long time to heal.

You may need to stay in the hospital while your burn is healing so your health care providers can help you.

You can read these articles to find more information on burn safety.

A DDS Safety Net Article for you

Another DDS Safety Net Article on Scalds

For more information, you can check out these websites.

American Burn Association

Family Doctor


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ENGLISH-Burn Prevention_May2014.pdf 1015.58 KB
Last updated on Mon, 06/21/2010 - 17:17