Thermal burns, such as those caused by steam, are common injuries occurring often in the home and workplace. These are usually not serious burns, and typically require only good common sense practices for proper healing.
A major concern with all burns is the possibility of resulting infection during the healing process. Risk of infection from minor burns is reduced by effective home treatment. Deeper burns, characterised by open blisters, are more serious, highly likely to become infected, and should receive professional medical attention.
Treating Steam Burns
Steam burns are first-degree, or the most minor, red burns and involve only the first layer of skin. The affected area will look like a nasty sunburn. It will probably hurt and be a little swollen, and the victim may feel feverish or even a little unwell all over if the burn is a large one. Although uncomfortable, a steam burn usually won't blister badly if at all, or leave any scars. With good home treatment, complete healing can be expected within 3-5 days.
Contrary to popular belief, you should never apply ice or oil, such as butter, to any thermal burn, including a steam burn. Ice and oils can actually cause further damage to the injured skin. The first thing to do is to gently flood the affected area with cool tap water for 10-20 minutes. Gently pat dry with a soft towel and apply a liberal coating of aloe vera gel. This miracle salve provided by nature will cool, soothe, and immediately relieve the burning sensation temporarily. It can be safely reapplied as needed, and is known for its healing properties. If some small blisters do occur, avoid popping them. Don't cover the steam burn.
You can also try dissolving ½ cup baking soda in a quart of hot water. Stir in ½ cup of uncooked oats, and blend well. Pour a cool bath, and add the soda oat mixture to the water. Soak the steam burnt area for 15-30 minutes as needed. Oatmeal and baking soda are very soothing to this type of skin injury.
Taking frequent cool baths or showers and the application of cool, damp chamomile tea compresses can be helpful for a steam burn. Try applying a light dusting of cornflour to the affected area to prevent uncomfortable chafing from clothing. As the burn begins to heal, it will probably become itchy. Aloe vera will relieve this nasty little issue, and clear calamine lotion will work well, too.
Watch for Infection
Infection is always a possibility following a wound or injury to the skin, no matter how minor. Professional medical attention should be sought for this condition. Look for excessive pain, redness, swelling or heat around the affected area. Red streaks extending from the burn site, the formation and drainage of pus, swollen lymph nodes, or unexplained fever or chills are all causes for immediate concern.
Caution to Caregivers
It is known that most burns result from accidental circumstances. However, special considerations come into play when children or vulnerable adults sustain burns. In these cases, it is of the utmost importance that you find out exactly how the incident occurred. If the victim is examined by a medical professional, the description of the cause must agree with the health worker's interpretation of the burn's appearance. If there is any doubt in this person's mind that the reported cause is not consistent with the burn, a serious complaint of abuse must be filed, according to law.
"Vulnerable adults" is a term used to describe ones unable to defend, protect or get help for themselves when injured or emotionally abused. Their vulnerabilities may be due to illness or physical conditions such as weakness in older adults or physical disability, or a mental or emotional condition.