A burn is an injury to the skin that can significantly impact physical and mental health and wellbeing. The heat from hot things, such as fire or boiling water, often causes burns. Burns can also occur due to cold things, radiation, friction, electricity or chemical substances.
Burns vary in severity according to the depth and size of the injury. First-degree burns affect the epidermis or uppermost layer of the skin and are the mildest of burn classifications. The skin is red, and pain occurs for short durations. Second-degree burns affect the epidermis and parts of the dermis. They are painful, require dressing and wound care, but do not need surgical intervention. Third-degree burns affect all layers of the skin. Nerves are typically damaged, which explains why these types of burns are not always painful. Medical management and surgery are necessary for third-degree burns. Fourth-degree burns are the most severe type, which often involves damage to muscle or bone and requires extensive medical care.
After a person has medically or surgically recovered from a severe burn, long-lasting functional challenges can occur. For example, people may have difficulties with bathing or dressing, meal preparation, driving, sleep, moving in and around the home, and pain and fatigue. Occupational therapists are crucial to providing continued support to patients or clients in the hospital or out in the community to enable them to function independently.
Occupational therapists help clients in one or more of the following ways:
scar management strategies to help with range of motion
design and create custom fabricated splints
provide advice on pain management
recommended adaptive devices such as seat cushions, wheelchairs or beds
help modify the home environment
collaborate with employers on return to work plans
support with driving or alternatives to community mobility
Reference: Jeschke, M, van Baar, M, et al. (2020). Burn injury. Nature reviews. Disease primers, 6(1), 11. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41572-020-0145-5