Steam Burns

Treatment of Steam Burns

After a steam burn, take these steps at once and in this order:

  1. Remove the threat.
  2. Stop the burning process.
  3. Cover the burn injuries.
  4. Transport the patient to a burn center, if necessary.

Remove the Threat

The most important step for any burn injury is to get rid of the cause. This is true if you have been burned or if you are helping someone else who has been burned.

Turn off or stop the heat source. Move the injured person away from the steam.

Stop the Burn Process

The burn process will continue even after the source of heat has been removed. It is very important to cool down the area to stop this process.

Run cool tap water over the burned area. The cool water will reduce the temperature of the burn.

Keep doing this until the burned area feels cool to the touch. It is important to continue even after the patient starts to feel better.

You may need to keep flushing the injury with cool water for as long as 20 minutes. This is the only way to completely stop the burn process and prevent the injury from getting worse.

Call 911 if the steam burn or scald includes:

  • The face
  • An entire hand
  • An entire foot
  • The genitalia

If the patient becomes short of breath at any time after a steam injury, call 911 at once. Steam in the throat can cause swelling in the airway, even hours after the injury.

Cover and Transport

Next, cover the burn injuries with a dry, sterile dressing. If the total area of the burn is larger than 9% of the patient’s body, call 911. The patient needs to be taken by ambulance to a burn center.

The rule of nines can help you decide if you need to call 911. Under this rule, 9% of the body is roughly equal to:

  • One arm
  • One thigh
  • One leg below the knee
  • Head
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Upper back
  • Lower back

You can estimate the extent of the burn by adding up all the areas with blisters or worse injuries. If an entire arm is covered in blisters, that’s 9%. If it’s only half the arm, that’s 4.5%. 

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