• #5-2. Understanding and Treating Coffee Burns


    Characteristics of a coffee burn


    I find several commonalities among patients with coffee burns.

    First, the burns were all sustained from using a take-out paper cup. Burns were sustained from liquid spilled from hasty opening and closing of the lid, falling or bumping into an obstacle while moving with the cup, and intraoral burn from drinking hot coffee. In short, take-out coffee has the highest burn risk.  

    Second, burn patients had in common the area of the burn and gender. Among patients I have treated, the hand and forearm were the most common areas of the burn, followed by thigh and back. And a majority were women. It was common for them to burn their hand while carrying the hot beverage or from knocking off the hot cup on the table. The hand, arm and thigh are areas that are often exposed in our daily life and need particular caution. Considering a large number of coffee burn victims are women, one should be careful to avoid long-term sequelae such as PIH in these exposed areas.  

    Third, most of coffee burn patients are not aware of the seriousness of the burn. They underestimate the damage from hot coffee and only visit the doctor when the burn worsens a couple days later. Burn wounds tend to progress when left untreated and should be quickly treated to avoid long-term treatment and scarring. Especially, if the inflammatory phase sets in where the wound becomes reddened and swollen, at least two-week treatment including oral antibiotics is needed. If pain persists for a few hours after the spill, it is necessary to visit a physician for proper treatment.


    [Advertisement] Reandnè Thread Series – Manufacturer: GTG KOREA(www.gtgkorea.com)


    Early treatment and duration


    What should be done as an early remedy to a coffee burn? Quickly remove any clothing covering the burn. Cloth that is wet with hot liquid sticks to the skin and lengthens the exposure time, raising the risk of deep burns. However, do practice caution as a quickly snatched garment can scratch the wound and rupture blisters. This causes inflammation and lengthens treatment duration.

    As a first aid procedure, when the clothing is removed, cool the wound under running water. Lightly apply topical antibiotics or burn ointment and dress the wound with soft, damp cloth. Make sure to visit a burn care center. There is unconfirmed online advice for putting cucumber or potato slices on the burn wound. This may initially lower the temperature of the affected area but increases the risk of infection and should be avoided.

    As most coffee burns are second degree burns, standards for second degree burn care should be applied. Second degree burns are characterized by dermal damage, blisters and subcutaneous edema. Depending on the depth of the burn, it can be categorized as superficial partial thickness or deep partial thickness. Superficial second degree burns without infection heal in 10-14 days. Deep second degree burns can heal in 3-5 weeks with proper treatment, however, progress into a third degree burn when infected. This can cause scars. Children with tender skin and the elderly with aged skin are particularly susceptible to more severe burns than healthy adults. 

    As an early remedy, use a burn shield to calm the wound and apply a silver-containing dressing if inflammation develops. After the inflammation phase passes, use foam dressing to drain the wound. In the final stage, use hydrocolloid dressing or anti-inflammatory ointment to promote healing.


     Image 2. Burn shield used as an early remedy for coffee burns.


    -To be continued-

Sing in