Call 911 or your local emergency number if:
- The burn is very large - about the size of your palm or larger
- The burn is severe (third degree).
- You aren't sure how serious it is.
- The burn is caused by chemicals or electricity.
- The person shows signs of shock.
- The person breathed in smoke.
- Physical abuse is the known or suspected cause of the burn.
- There are other symptoms associated with the burn.
For minor burns, call your doctor if you still have pain after 48 hours.
Call immediately if signs of infection develop. These signs include:
- Drainage or pus from the burned skin
- Increased pain
- Red streaks spreading from the burn
- Swollen lymph nodes
Also call immediately if symptoms of dehydration occur with a burn:
- Decreased urination
- Dry skin
- Nausea (with or without vomiting)
Children, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system (for example, from HIV) should be seen right away.
The health care provider will perform a history and physical examination. Tests and procedures will be done as needed.
These may include:
- Airway and breathing support, including a face mask, tube through the mouth into the trachea, or breathing machine (ventilator) for serious burns or those involving the face or airway
- Blood and urine tests if shock or other complications are present
- Chest x-ray for face or airway burns
- EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing), if shock or other complications are present
- Intravenous fluids (fluids through a vein), if shock or other complications are present
- Medications for pain relief and to prevent infection
- Ointments or creams applied to the burned areas
- Tetanus immunization, if not up to date
The outcome will depend on the type (degree), extent, and location of the burn; whether internal organs have been affected, and if other trauma has occurred. Burns can leave permanent scars. They can also be more sensitive to temperature and light than normal skin. Sensitive areas, such as the eyes, nose, or ears, may be seriously injured and lose normal function.
With airway burns, the person may have less breathing capacity and permanent lung damage. Severe burns that affect the joints may result in contractures, where there is decreased movement and a reduction in function.