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Volcano Burn Victims Have a Long Road to Recovery

December 10, 2019

Images of an erupting volcano in New Zealand are now being replaced with stories of survivors. Most were seriously burned, some up to 80% of their body. According to news reports, every burn unit in the country is at full capacity treating these survivors. Burn management is a specialization because of how the whole body is affected, not just the burned skin, and patients can spend months in a burn unit until they are well enough to transfer to a general ward or unit.

Your skin is your best barrier and protection against infection. If you are burned, particularly over a large part of your body, you are at high risk of contracting an infection. In fact, infection and sepsis are the major cause of death among burn patients.

The volcano survivors have a long recovery road ahead of them. Burns not only put you at risk for infections, they also cause dehydration and other medical problems. And burns don’t always affect the skin alone. Some are inhalation burns, caused by breathing in extreme heat. Other inhalation injuries are caused by breathing in toxic substances, including smoke and – in this case – fallout from the eruption.

The story of the volcano survivors is an extreme one, but most people do end up burning themselves somehow at some point, so it’s important to know how to care for a burn, how to tell if the burn is serious enough to require a visit to the urgent care or emergency room, and how to identify signs of an infection and sepsis.

To learn more, visit Sepsis and Burns, part of the Sepsis and… library of sepsis-related topics.