When do you need to go to a burn specialist?
First, burn degrees are much harder to determine than most people think—especially in the first 48 hours when the skin appearance can change significantly. While your doctor is currently seeing evidence of a 2nd degree burn, the damage may go deeper and evaluation by a burn specialist is the best way to find that out.
Second, any burn to the hand should be taken seriously because, if not treated properly, it can lead to permanent issues with movement and function. In children, severe burns to the hand can cause enough damage to keep them from growing properly. That’s why any 2nd degree or higher burn to the hand should be examined by a doctor—and why you should take your doctor’s advice about visiting Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center.
Innovative Burn Care in Kansas City
Grossman Burn Centers have earned a worldwide reputation for innovative burn treatment. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and with a Kansas City home at HCA Midwest Health’s Research Medical Center since December 2013.
Grossman Burn Center brings together a wide-range of specialists to offer comprehensive treatment from emergency care for severe wounds to reconstruction, rehabilitation and psychological counseling. Surgeons, physicians, nurses, rehabilitation therapists, respiratory therapists, psychologists, and more work together with patients, their families and their communities to heal their physical and emotional injuries – restoring patients to as close to their pre-injury state as possible.
Grossman Burn Center offers both a 24-Hour Inpatient Care (816) 276-4325 and an Outpatient Clinic by appointment (816) 276-3518.
The burn center is integrated into Research Medical Center’s emergency services, so patients coming in by ambulance to the emergency room or trauma center can access Grossman Burn Center care. Patients can also walk-in to the Research Medical Center emergency room or be referred by their primary care doctor or urgent care.
Burn First Aid
Once you are safe from the cause of the burn or scald, the first thing you need to do is stop the burning process. Damage to the skin will continue as long as the burn area is hot. Cool the burned area as soon as possible under cool (NOT cold or icy) running water for at least 20 minutes.
- Remove any clothing in and around the burn (clothing can retain heat) UNLESS it is stuck to the burned skin. Then don’t remove, but run the clothing under water as well as the burn.
- If the burn was caused by a hot, sticky liquid like tar, don’t try to remove the liquid, but cool the whole area with water.
- If the burn was caused by a chemical in powder form, brush the powder away before running under water. You may need to rinse a chemical burn for longer, get advice from a doctor if possible or call our free nurse call line at (800) 386-9355.
- If the burn was electrical, be aware that it might be far more serious below the skin than it appears on the surface.
Make sure to keep the rest of your body warm while cooling your burn and remove any restrictive jewelry or clothing that might be a problem if swelling occurs.
Do NOT touch the burned area, pop any blisters, apply any creams or oils without doctor direction or put on any adhesive, sticky or fluffy dressing. If you don’t want to leave the burn area open, use cling or plastic wrap. It is sterile once you roll past the first few inches (throw those away) and doctors can see through it to assess the burn. Just make sure you apply the wrap by layering strips on the surface and NOT wrapping it around an area (like an arm or leg). The burned skin is likely to swell and you don’t want any additional pressure on the wound.
When is a Burn an Emergency?
There are five main reasons a burn is severe enough to go to the emergency room.
- Location of the burn. Burns to the face, eyes, ears, hands, feet or genital area. These burns are much more likely to cause permanent damage if not treated.
- Degree of the burn. Deep burns (3rd & 4th degree) are always an emergency. But it can be really hard to tell how deep a burn is. Generally surface burns are red and mildly painful, like a sunburn. Blisters are a sign they go deeper (2nd degree). Any charring or whitish marks on the skin is a sign of a 3rd or 4th degree burn. Generally, 2nd degree burns are the most painful, because with 3rd and 4th degree burns the nerves themselves are damaged.
- Size of the burn. Burns that cover a large area of the body are more dangerous. In general, if the burn covers more skin than the size of the palm of your hand it needs medical attention.
- Signs of infection. If the pain increases, there is redness or swelling, or liquid or a foul odor is coming from the wound then the burn is likely infected.
- Worsening over time. Sometimes burns start off feeling and looking minor, but get worse in the next day or so—more painful, more red or swollen, the visible skin appears darker. This is a clear sign of a deep and damaging burn that needs immediate medical attention.
You don’t have to have ALL of these signs – any one is enough to seek immediate medical attention for a burn. For instance, a quarter-sized deep burn is in need of medical attention, as well as a surface burn that covers most of your arm. When in doubt, call your doctor for advice or talk to a registered nurse, 24/7, by calling 1-800-386-9355—a free service of HCA Midwest Health.