According to the American Burn Association, an American child or adult sustains a burn injury serious enough to require medical treatment every minute of the day. Burns from scalding hot liquids and steam make up 35% of all burn injuries admitted for treatment at U.S. burn centers. And of that number, approximately 90% are related to cooking, drinking and serving hot liquids.
Few things are more soothing than a warm bowl of soup or a steaming cup of cocoa when it’s cold outside. But if you’re not careful, handling liquid comfort foods straight off the stovetop or out of the microwave oven can cause burns severe enough to land you in the nearest emergency room.
So, how do you know when to make a beeline for emergency care or treat a burn injury at home?
Dr. Deshon Moore, who practices emergency medicine at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill., says infants and elderly adults should seek medical help immediately after sustaining a scalding or burn injury But for most adults and older children, he says the answer depends on the size and overall appearance of the burned skin.
“The first thing you’ll want to do is cool down the injured skin’s temperature with cool, running water or a cool compresses until the pain subsides,” Dr. Moore says. Then take a look at the injured skin. “If the burn blister is larger than 2 inches, oozes or stays red, swollen or painful for more than a few hours, you should seek medical care as quickly as possible,” Dr. Moore says.
On the other hand, if the burn blister is smaller than 2 inches in diameter and the pain subsides after about 20 minutes, covering the injury with an over-the-counter fragrance-free ointment and a sterile bandage may be the best immediate remedy, Dr. Moore says.
After a burn injury, Dr. Moore recommends checking in with your doctor to ensure you are up to date on your tetanus vaccination.