We have likely all experienced a burn of some sort. Whether from staying out too long in the sun or touching a hot stove, first degree burns are especially typical in everyday life. These types of burns don’t usually need more than cold water and some lotion to heal up without a mark left behind. With more serious burns, medical treatment is almost always a certainty, as there will be damage not only to the skin, but the tissue beneath as well. Bad burns are serious injuries, destroying your outermost and largest defense against bacteria and infections, leaving you defenseless and vulnerable. This is when long term complications can develop.
Why some burn injuries are catastrophic
Catastrophic burns are most often caused by chemicals, heat, and electricity. Being caught in a burning building or car, or suffering an accident while at work, can leave a victim with serious, life-threatening injuries.
Serious burn injuries, such as some third- and fourth-degree burns (as well as some second-degree), can lead to a multitude of potential complications, both immediate and long-term.
- Infection. Burns compromise the skin’s protective barrier, making individuals susceptible to infections. Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections can develop, potentially leading to systemic infections if not promptly treated.
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Burn injuries can cause fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances, which may lead to dehydration and potentially life-threatening complications such as low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock), kidney failure, seizures, coma, and sudden cardiac death.
- Respiratory issues. Inhalation injuries are common in fires, and burns to the respiratory tract – often caused by chemicals, ash, and embers – can lead to respiratory distress or failure. This is a serious and potentially fatal complication.
- Nerve damage. Burns can damage nerves, leading to sensory or motor deficits. This can result in chronic pain, numbness, or loss of function in affected areas.
- Organ damage. In some cases, severe burns can affect internal organs, leading to complications like kidney dysfunction or gastrointestinal problems.
- Hypothermia. Burn injuries can disrupt the body’s temperature regulation, making individuals more susceptible to hypothermia, particularly in colder environments.
Long term complications
- Increase risk of cancer. In a study published in 2017, researchers studied people who had been treated in the hospital for burns between 1983 and 1987. They found that females who had burns were 1.39 times more likely to get cancer compared to people who hadn’t been injured. The size of the burn (measured as TBSA [total body surface area]) was more important than how deep it was. Severe burns increased the risk of all types of cancer by 1.81 times. To make sure this was accurate, they looked at another group of burn patients in Scotland from 1983 to 2008. This group had more than 38,000 patients. They also found that both males and females who had burns had a slightly higher risk of getting cancer. This confirmed the earlier results. They also looked at the types of cancer that burn patients got. They found that burn survivors of all ages and genders were more likely to get cancer in the mouth, throat, liver, lungs, and esophagus. Female burn survivors had a higher risk of breast and genital cancer.
- Increase risk of cardiovascular issues. Children who have suffered burns and needed hospital care have a higher chance of having heart and circulation problems later in life, especially boys. This risk can last for more than 20 years after the burn. Even kids with less severe burns might be at risk, but we need more research to understand why. The risk of heart and circulation issues is also higher in adults who had burns. They are 1.46 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital and spend 2.9 times more days in the hospital. This means that burn injuries can affect the heart and circulation for a long time, leading to problems like heart disease, heart failure, and circulation issues. Even adults with less severe burns can face these risks.
- Scarring and disfigurement. Severe burns often result in extensive scarring and disfigurement, which can have profound psychological and social consequences. Scar tissue can limit mobility and cause functional impairment. This can lead to cosmetic concerns that may require reconstructive surgery. In some cases, severe burns can affect the bones themselves, and amputation may be necessary.
- Contractures. As burns heal, the scar tissue can tighten, causing contractures. These can limit the range of motion of joints and require physical therapy or surgery to address.
- Psychological trauma. Coping with the physical and emotional consequences of a severe burn can be emotionally challenging. Individuals may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychological issues.
If you have suffered a serious burn injury due to someone else’s negligence, it is important to know that you can and should receive compensation. Whether someone crashed into you with their car, sparking a vehicle fire; a container carrying hazardous chemicals wasn’t properly stored; or something went very wrong at a neighborhood barbecue, it doesn’t matter. We will represent you so that you can focus on healing, and we can work to ensure that you receive restitution for your pain, suffering, lost wages, and hospital bills.
To schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation, call or contact us today. Based in Alton, the burn injury attorneys at Glisson Law proudly represent clients throughout Belleville, Edwardsville, St. Clair, and Madison counties, in addition to serving the wider Southwestern Illinois and Missouri areas.