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    Chances are you’ve gotten a skin burn at some point in your life- perhaps from a cooking incident, fireplace, hair tool, or firework. When should you seek medical care for a burn? Is there someone in the area that specializes in burn care? What is the recovery time for a burn? Ed Robertson, Physical Therapist at Summit Therapy & Health Services is ready and able to help.


    Why is a physical therapist involved in burn care and recovery? 


    Robertson says it’s nothing new, “historically, burns took a long time to heal and stretches and exercises were necessary to do while people healed.” These recovery techniques often came during dressing changes, since the bulky dressings were removed, the skin was accessible, and the patient was likely medicated for pain. Robertson notes that “not every physical therapist gets trained in burn care, it remains a speciality area.” 


    Robertson has received training in burn care and management from Harborview Medical Center’s Burn Center. He holds a special license designation that allows him to do specific wound care procedures such as cleaning the wound, removing dead tissue, applying wound dressings, and educating patients and caregivers about proper wound care.


    When someone in the region experiences a burn that requires medical care, Robertson is available to provide assistance to doctors and surgeons, as well as create treatment plans for patients’ recovery. 


    What does recovery look like?


     “It can be difficult to determine the true severity of a burn until several days after the incident," says Robertson. This means that something may not look severe when a patient goes to the Emergency Department, but 4-5 days later, it appears that additional medical intervention may be necessary.


    “Patients shouldn’t worry though. I can help manage that burn from day 1 through the whole healing process, including measuring and fitting for burn compression garments that aid in minimizing scarring.” Physical therapy exercises can help reduce or even eliminate scarring, as well as speed up the healing time for a burn. 


    Can burns be prevented? 


    Robertson said that “most of the burns I see are relatively small hand, calf, and foot burns from campfires, cooking accidents and fireworks.” He also notes that each winter he sees a handful of toddlers with burns from oven doors, wood stoves, and fireplace hearths. This is a good reminder to make sure you’re practicing fire safety with your children, keeping an eye on them around burning fireplaces, and watching them in the kitchen near hot surfaces. Many burns are indeed preventable by simply being safe, affirms Robertson. 


    When should I seek medical care?


    When does a burn require medical care? Robertson says there are a couple different factors that can help you determine whether your burn is in need of medical care or not. If you experience a burn that falls into one of the following categories, it’s a good idea to head to your closest emergency room or urgent care clinic. 

    • If the burn forms a blister larger than a quarter
    • If the burn causes the skin to be dry and leathery
    • Any burn caused by a chemical or electricity
    • Any burn which causes difficulty breathing or burns to the airways
    • Any burn that appears charred, or have patches of white, brown, or black
    • Any burn larger than 3 inches (about 8 centimeters) in diameter or cover the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint

    Robertson wants the community to know that they have a great resource, right here in Pullman, should they ever experience a severe burn. He emphasizes that he has “specialty knowledge, experience, and skills” to help them treat and recover from burns. “You don’t have to go to Spokane or Seattle to get this type of care,” Robertson reassures. While burn care is not Robertson’s main job, he finds it “very rewarding to see the anxiety melt away when working with patients and their families.”


    Learn more about Ed Robertson, Physical Therapy, and Summit Therapy & Health Services online or by calling (509) 332-5106.

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