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Bacterial Infection After Burn Injuries

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Bacterial infection in burns is a common complication that occurs when the skin is burned and damaged, creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At April 25, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 8, 2024


Burn injuries are a common and potentially serious type of injury that can result from exposure to heat, flames, chemicals, or electricity. Burn injuries can be classified into three categories based on their severity: first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree burns. In addition to the damage caused by the burn itself, burns can also increase the risk of bacterial infection, delayed wound healing, and other complications.

Burn injuries can create an ideal environment for bacterial growth and infection. When the skin is burned, it becomes damaged and may lose its ability to serve as a protective barrier against bacteria and other microorganisms. This can lead to an increased risk of infection. The specific bacterial species involved in a burn infection can vary depending on the circumstances, such as the severity of the burn, the individual's immune system, and the cleanliness of the environment. It is important to properly clean and dress burns to prevent infection and to seek medical attention if an infection does occur.

Which Bacteria Are Responsible for Causing Infection in Burns?

  • Pseudomonas Aeruginosa: This is one of the most common bacterial species associated with burn infections. It is a gram-negative bacterium that is frequently found in water, soil, and hospital environments.

  • Staphylococcus Aureus: This is a gram-positive bacterium that is often found on the skin and in the nasal passages of healthy individuals. It can cause infections in burns that are not properly cleaned or dressed.

  • Streptococcus Pyogenes: This is a gram-positive bacterium that is commonly associated with strep throat, but it can also cause infections in burns.

  • Escherichia Coli: This is a gram-negative bacterium that is normally found in the intestinal tract. However, it can cause infections in burns if it enters the body through an open wound.

  • Klebsiella Pneumoniae: This is a gram-negative bacterium that is commonly found in the environment and can cause infections in burns that are not properly cleaned or dressed.

Why Does Bacterial Infection in Burns Occur?

Bacterial infections in burns can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Contamination: Burns can become contaminated with bacteria from a variety of sources, including the environment, medical equipment, or the patient's skin.

  • Impaired Immune System: Burn injuries can damage the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections.

  • Delayed Wound Healing: Burn injuries can impair the body's ability to heal wounds, which can create a prolonged period of vulnerability to bacterial infections.

  • Poor Wound Care: If burns are not properly cleaned, dressed, or treated with antibiotics, bacterial infections can develop and spread.

  • Invasive Medical Procedures: Invasive medical procedures, such as inserting a catheter or performing surgery, can increase the risk of bacterial infections in burns.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Infection in Burn Injuries?

Signs and symptoms of a bacterial infection in burns are redness and swelling around the burn wound, increased warmth or heat around the burn area, pain or tenderness at the site of the burn, discharge or pus from the wound, a foul odor from the wound, fever or chills, an increased heart rate or breathing rate, fatigue or weakness, and a loss of appetite.

What Is the Treatment Plan for Bacterial Infection in Burns?

The treatment of bacterial infections in burns typically involves a combination of wound care and antibiotic therapy. The specific treatment plan will depend on the severity and type of infection, as well as the patient's overall health and medical history. Here are some common steps that may be taken to treat bacterial infections in burns:

  • Wound Care: The burn wound should be cleaned and dressed regularly to remove any dead tissue, debris, or bacteria that may be present. This can help promote healing and prevent the spread of infection. Depending on the severity of the burn, wound care may involve surgical debridement or other procedures to remove damaged tissue.

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bacterial infections in burns. The specific type of antibiotic and duration of treatment will depend on the type of bacteria causing the infection and the severity of the infection. Oral or topical antibiotics may be used for mild infections, while intravenous antibiotics may be necessary for more severe infections.

  • Pain Management: Burn injuries can be very painful, and pain management is an important part of the treatment plan. Pain medications, such as Acetaminophen or opioids, may be prescribed to manage pain and discomfort.

  • Nutritional Support: Burn injuries can cause nutritional deficiencies, and nutritional support may be necessary to promote healing and prevent complications. This may involve oral or intravenous feeding, depending on the patient's needs.

  • Other Medical Interventions: Depending on the severity of the burn and the presence of other medical conditions, other medical interventions may be necessary. This may include surgical procedures to repair damaged tissue or other treatments to manage complications.

Who Is at Risk for Bacterial Infection in Burn Injuries?

Anyone who has suffered a burn injury is at risk for bacterial infection. However, some individuals may be at a higher risk than others. Here are some factors that can increase the risk of bacterial burn infection:

  • The Severity of the Burns: The risk of infection increases with the severity of the burn. Deep burns that extend into the dermis or subcutaneous tissue are more likely to become infected than superficial burns that only affect the epidermis.

  • Extent of the Burns: Burns that cover a large area of the body are more susceptible to infection than small burns.

  • Immune System Status: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy, are at higher risk for bacterial burn infection.

  • Age: Infants, young children, and older adults may be more susceptible to bacterial burn infection due to a weakened immune system or other underlying health conditions.

  • Medical Conditions: Individuals with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or other chronic medical conditions that affect blood flow or immune function may be at higher risk for bacterial burn infection.

  • Delayed Wound Healing: Burns that take longer to heal are at a higher risk for infection because the protective barrier of the skin is compromised for a longer period of time.

  • Environmental Factors: Burns that occur in a dirty or contaminated environment, such as in a disaster or war zone, are more likely to become infected.


Preventing bacterial burn infection involves proper wound care and hygiene, as well as maintaining good overall health, which is crucial in preventing bacterial burn infection. Prompt medical attention is necessary if a burn becomes infected or shows signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or fever and it can very quickly lead to complications. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the bacterial infection, and pain management is important for minimizing discomfort. Early intervention is essential. It is also important to follow the treatment plan prescribed by the healthcare provider and attend all follow-up appointments to monitor the healing process and prevent further complications.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does Bacterial Infection Occur After a Burn?

Usually, pseudomonas and staphylococcus cause the bacterial infections that occur after a burn. Infection is a common complication of burns, which can even be fatal. Pseudomonas can also be responsible for the occurrence of sepsis, which can result in death. 


Is It Common for a Burn to Get Infected?

Infection is the most common complication of burns. Infection is one of the main reasons for death in burn victims. Infection is rare in first-degree burns, but in the case of second-degree burns, infection is very common. Infection depends on the severity and the extent of the burn.


How Do Microbes Develop Over Burns?

Most of the infections that occur after the burn are due to aerobic bacteria. Microorganisms can be transmitted from the surrounding area at the time of injury or can be caused endogenously by the patient, or the infection may be caused by the hands of medical professionals.


Do Burns Get Infected Easily?

Burnt wounds can get infected easily if the bacteria invade the wounded region. If the burnt area has blisters that burst, the region gets infected easily if not maintained clean. In case of second and third-degree burns, the skin gets affected, which acts as a barrier to prevent infection. In such cases, the occurrence of infection is very common. 


How to Prevent Infection Caused by Burns?

Usually, first-degree burns do not get infected. In the case of second and third-degree burns, the chance of infection is very high. In such cases, the burn wound can be covered with a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and should be covered with a non-sticky bandage. The dressing should be changed whenever required. By doing this, the occurrence of infection can be prevented.


What Are the Common Bacterial Skin Infections?

The common bacterial pathogens that cause skin infections are staphylococcus aureus and group A β-hemolytic streptococci. Staph bacteria cause most skin infections, which are minor, like pimples, and these tend to be non-infectious and do not spread to other areas. 


Which Is the Best Antibiotic for Burn Infections?

In case of first-degree burns, bacitracin can be used. In case of a superficial burn, paraffin gauze is used, and in case of a deep burn, silver-based dressing is preferred. In case of infection that occurs due to a burn wound, it can be treated using antibiotics such as Oxacillin, Mezlocillin, and Gentamicin.


Which Burn Usually Gets Infected?

First-degree burns usually do not get infected and heal on their own within 10 to 20 days. But in rare cases, the first-degree burn affects deeper and changes into the second-degree burn. Usually, second and third-degree burns get infected easily. In case of third-degree burns, skin grafting is required. 


What Are the Signs of Infection?

There are some common signs of infection, such as 
- Fever.
- Chills.
- Fatigue.
Other signs depend on the body part, like:
- Rash.
- Swelling.
- Coughing. 


How Do Antibiotics Help With Burn?

Burn infections can affect the wound healing process, cause scarring, and can even be fatal. The use of antibiotics can help to prevent wound infection and also prevent the spread of infection.


Can Burn Infection Go Away on Its Own?

It is important to treat the infection caused by the burn as soon as possible. Most of the infections caused due to burns require treatment. These infections can be treated using antibiotics and painkillers. In some cases where the infection is not treated, it can result in sepsis (blood poisoning), which can also result in death.


Can Burn Infection Go Away on Its Own?

It is important to treat the infection caused by the burn as soon as possible. Most of the infections caused due to burns require treatment. These infections can be treated using antibiotics and painkillers. In some cases where the infection is not treated, it can result in sepsis (blood poisoning), which can also result in death.


Should the Infected Area Be Covered?

Post-burn injury makes the person more prone to infections and can result in non-healing wounds. So, the infected area needs to be covered to prevent infections. Polyvinyl chloride film can be used as a first aid.


Can Bacterial Infection Spread?

Most bacterial infections are contagious which can spread from person to person. Those infections, which occur due to contaminated food, mosquitos, or ticks tend to be non-contagious. 
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Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases


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