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Emergency Department Discharge Instructions

Burns

Emergency Care Discharge Instructions

Instruction summary

Burns can be extremely painful. To treat the pain, use the medication you were prescribed (typically ibuprofen, Tylenol #3 or Percocet). Note that Tylenol #3 and Percocet can make you sleepy, so it is important not to drive or work with heavy machinery when you are taking them. Tylenol #3 and Percocet usually also cause constipation, so take an over-the-counter medicine for constipation, such as Metamucil or Docusate, at the same time as taking these medications.

To speed up the healing of your burn stay well-hydrated and keep the burned area elevated as much as possible (so that gravity can drain the swelling away from the burn). For example, if the burn is on your forearm, keep your arm raised as much as you can (like you are the queen and about to wave at your subjects). If the burn is on your leg, prop your leg up on a chair whenever you are sitting down.

If you are not seeing a doctor within 24 hours, you can take the bandage off yourself after 24 hours. Soak the bandage in cold water if it is stuck on. Once the cover is off, evaluate your wound. Do not pop any blisters. Look for the following signs of infection:

  1.  Redness around the wound (or redness moving up your leg or arm)
  2. Pus coming out of the wound (thick fluid that you can’t see through).

If you see either of these signs of infection, you may need antibiotics. Either see your family doctor within the next few days, or if you can’t see them quickly go to a walk-in clinic or return to the ER.

If the burn does not look infected, you can apply antibiotic skin ointment (e.g.Polysporin or Flamazine).

Steps to apply a dressing
  1. Apply some antibiotic skin ointment to a non-stick pad (such as Telfa or Adaptic)
  2. Turn the dressing over and place the dressing directly on the wound (so that the ointment touches the wound)
  3. Place some regular pads of gauze on top of the dressing
  4. Wrap a stretchy cling wrap around the pads of gauze to hold it in place
  5. Use some tape to hold the cling in place

Burns typically take three weeks to heal completely. If it has not healed in two weeks, see your family doctor.

Reasons to return to the ER
  1. New fever (≥38.0 °C or 100.4 °F)
  2. Signs of infection (spreading redness, pus coming from the wound)