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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 face in color, flatten and become less sensitive as they mature.

Itching After a Burn Injury

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 tissues 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 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.

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