Healing after a burn

Look to Spectrum Health for help healing physically and mentally after a burn.

When will my burn heal?

Minor burns often heal in a few days or weeks. More serious burns can take many weeks. Your physician will tell you want to expect for your injury and health condition. For optimal healing, follow your care plan.

Will I have scars?

Scars depend on two major factors:

  • Burn depth – The deeper your burn, the higher the likelihood of scarring.
  • Your genetics – If you or your family have a history of forming excessive scar tissue, you are at higher risk of developing bigger scars.

Ask your doctor and physical therapist about ways to reduce scarring.

When to call a doctor

If you experience any of these symptoms while your burn is healing, call your doctor right away:

  • Blisters filled with greenish or brownish fluid
  • Drainage that smells bad or includes pus
  • Excessive swelling
  • Fever
  • Nonhealing wound (burn that takes longer than expected to get better)

Peer support

Connect with others affected by burn injuries. Learn about virtual support groups offered by Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.

Burn recovery frequently asked questions

Will my skin return to its natural color?
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Your skin will gain pigment (color) as it heals, but it might not look the same as it did before the injury. Help your fragile, burn-injured skin heal by protecting it from the sun. Wear a wide-brim hat, sunscreen and clothing that covers the wound.

What can I do about dry, itchy skin?
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Burns often damage the glands that produce oils. The drier your skin, the more likely it is to itch. Itching may also be caused by regrowing nerves. Use lotions or moisturizers designed for sensitive skin. You also can talk with your doctor about medications to relieve itching.

Will my skin stay so tight?
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If your physical therapist recommended daily exercises as part of your treatment plan, follow the instructions. These exercises will help your skin soften as it heals.

Do I need to wear pressure garments?
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If you and your burn doctor decide that garments are necessary for your recovery, wear them 23 hours a day as the scars heal. The pressure they provide helps prevent collagen overgrowth that causes hypertrophic (thick, raised) scars. Eventually, you can stop wearing the garments.

When can I go back to work or school?
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Talk to your care team about when it’s OK to return to work or school after a serious burn. It’s important that you wait until you’re at low risk for an infection.

What should I say when people ask what happened?
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Rehearsing what you will say can make it less difficult to answer in the moment. State how and when you were injured, and how you are doing now. Then thank them for asking. For example: “I was burned when I fell into a campfire. I have worked really hard and am recovering well. Thanks for asking."

Manage Your Health

Use MyChart to schedule your next appointment, access your test results and communicate with your doctor.