Hand Burns: Treatment & Remedies

Understanding Hand Burns: Types and Severity

Burns to part or all of the hand are common due to the basic function of the hand. Burns are a type of tissue injury resulting from heat exposure (flames, steam, hot liquids, etc.), chemicals, electricity, or even radiation. Burns to the skin reduces the body’s defenses against fluid loss and infection.

Burns are classified into four categories based on the extent of damage, ranging from first-degree to fourth-degree, which are the most severe. Most burns are a combination of two or more burn depths. First-degree burns only affect the epidermis (the top layer of the skin), causing irritation and redness, as in the case of sunburn. Second-degree burns are the most painful, involve deeper layers of the skin, can be partial or full thickness, and may cause blistering or oozing of the skin. All layers of the skin are destroyed in third-degree burns, and they are typically painless as they cause nerve damage. Fourth-degree burns are extremely severe, penetrating down to the muscle and bone.

What causes Burns of the Hand?

Burns can result from a variety of causes. Thermal sources are the most common. The heat from the sun, friction, and various kitchen hazards such as boiling fluids, a stovetop, or an open flame of a barbeque grill can cause varying degrees of thermal burns. Chemicals, radiation, and electricity can also result in burns. The degree of the burn depends on the length of exposure and the causative agent, among other factors.

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What are the symptoms of Burns on the Hand?

Symptoms vary with the severity of the burn. First-degree burns present with dry redness and can be quite sore or tender. Second-degree burns are the most painful. Second-degree burns may be full or partial thickness, with oozing blisters, and be white, pink, or red in color. Third-degree burns appear dry, leathery or charred, with little to no pain. Digit loss is possible in fourth-degree burns with visibly exposed muscle and possibly bone.

hand with 3rd degree burn

How is Burns on the Hand Diagnosed?

In addition to a detailed history and circumstances associated with the burn, a physical examination of the injured extremity is used to determine the severity and initiate an effective treatment plan.

How is Burns on the Hand treated?

First and Second-Degree Burns of the Hand

Treatment of burns depends directly on the causative agent and degree of injury. Minor burns may be successfully treated at home. Sunburns generally heal within two to five days and can be treated with aloe vera, low-dose hydrocortisone creams, and pain medication. Other first and second-degree thermal burns should be immediately immersed in cool (not cold) water for 10 or more minutes. In chemical burns, the causative agent must be neutralized and removed immediately. Restrictive items such as rings should be removed quickly before the area swells. Keep the burn clean with mild soap and water. Over-the-counter antibiotic ointments may be used. Small blisters should be left intact to heal, while large blisters may require medical removal. A tetanus booster shot may also be recommended.

Third and Fourth-Degree burns of the Hand

Third and fourth-degree burns require immediate medical intervention. The burned area will need repeat cleaning and debridement. Skin grafts are required to repair and replace the damaged/missing skin. Any exposed bone may need stabilization with wires or pins until the skin grafts fully heal. The hand and wrist may be splinted to prevent contractures. The extremity must stay elevated to reduce swelling and inflammation. Once healed, hand therapy is necessary to restore the extremity’s functionality and range of motion.

How can Dr. Knight help you with burns to the hand?

While minor burns to the hand can be an inconvenience, more severe burns can be debilitating and painful and should be treated as soon and as thoroughly as possible to avoid further complications. Dr. Knight has treated many burns during his practice and will work with you to develop the most comprehensive course of treatment to bring your hand back to proper function.

Dr. Knight welcomes you to any of our Dallas Fort-Worth accessible hand and wrist offices. Dr. Knight is an accomplished hand specialist. Come to our Southlake office or Dallas office today and bring life back to your hands.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use toothpaste to soothe a burn?
This is an old wives’ tale; putting toothpaste on a burn has no discernable clinical benefit. Depending on the type of toothpaste, certain additives, and flavorings, such as menthol, can irritate the already tender and irritated skin or even cause chemical burns if the concentration is high enough and if the skin is very damaged.

Can I put Vaseline on my burn?
Vaseline, along with butter and other cooking shortenings, are very bad things to put on a burn because they conduct heat well, and so if the burn continues to create heat in your tissue, these substances can make it harder for the heat in the burn to subside and can also infiltrate other tissues and increase the area of the burn.

How long do burns take to heal?
The recovery and healing time of burns depends upon the severity of the individual burn. A first-degree burn may take a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the size and the position of the bone, while second-degree or partial-thickness burns can take three to four weeks. Third-degree burns, the worst of the burns, do not heal in the same way as lesser burns, as they involve the skin and layers of muscle and tissue beneath the skin. Full-thickness burns leave a permanent layer of scar tissue across the burned area, and unless extensive skin grafting is performed during and after the recovery period, then unsightly scars will be unavoidable.

How do I deal with blistering from a burn?
Many burns will lead to blistering on the skin, and while it is tempting to puncture the blisters and release the fluid, it is important to avoid this urge for as long as possible. The fluid in the bluster serves a purpose: to protect the new skin that grows underneath it over the burn, so popping the blister leads to the possible introduction of bacteria to the injury, increasing the chance of infection.

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    HandAndWristInstitute.com does not offer medical advice. The information presented here is offered for informational purposes only. Read Disclaimer

    Dr. John Knight
    Dr. John Knight

    Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.