Attention, Diabetes Caregivers: Not All Burns are Caused by Heat!


BrightStar Care - Larimer County

Posted on

Nov 12, 2021


Colorado - Northern Colorado

Share This
When you think about caring for a loved one with diabetes, what do you have to consider every day? Of course, blood sugar levels, medication management, and diet top the list. But burn safety should be a high priority as well.
People who have diabetes are at greater risk for burns than the general population, and they can experience infections in burn wounds and heal more slowly compared to people without the disease. Diabetes can cause decreased sensation on the skin, which is called diabetic neuropathy. When the skin on the arms, hands, legs, or feet touches heat, people with diabetes can get burned without even feeling it.

But burns arent just caused by heat cold burns and chemical burns can be just as dangerous. The risk is higher for persons with diabetes, and without treatment, any type of burn can possibly:

Develop into an open wound
Become infected
Lead to amputation

Lets review the burn risks people with diabetes face, how to help your loved one avoid them, and how a BrightStar Care nurse can help.
Thermal Burns
A thermal burn is the type most people think of and is caused when the skin makes contact with heat. Common culprits include:

Heating pads
Hot pots or pans
Hot water or oil

Fireplaces and kitchen appliances are obvious heat sources that can cause burns. However, electric heating pads are one of the major culprits of burns among people with diabetes. In fact, injuries are so common that we recommend that none of our clients with diabetes use heating pads. Older adults skin tends tothin with ageand ismore prone to injury with diabetes.Coupled with reduced sensitivity from diabetic neuropathy, a heating pad turned up too hot easily can burn a seniors sensitive skin.

If your loved one insists on using heat to relieve pain, try to discourage this. If they still insist, help them prepare it to a temperature of moderate heat. Never microwave or use a hot water bottle as those can increase the risk of scalding the skin.
Cold Burns
People often focus on heat sources when they think about burns, but cold can be just as dangerous. The most commonly known cold burn injury is frostbite, which is a particular concern for people with diabetes because of neuropathy and decreased blood circulation.

Skin thats in contact with snow, ice, or even cold air for long periods is at great risk for frostbite. Snow or ice on the ground increases the risk your loved one may fall and expose themselves to prolonged contact with those elements. One study found that elderly people who have diabetes weretwice as likely to fallas those without diabetes regardless of the time of year.

To avoid frostbite, always make sure your loved one is dressed appropriately for cold temperatures, even if its just for a few minutes. Their winter weather wear should include:

Boots or shoes with socks, not slippers
Coat or heavy jacket

Chemical Burns
Chemical burns are particularly hazardous for older adults, especially those with diabetes. Many types of common home cleaning products can cause chemical burns, such as:

Toilet bowl cleaners

If your loved one has memory or cognitive issues, consider locking up or removing these potentially dangerous products from the home. A BrightStar Care nurse can conduct a home safety assessment, and a professional caregiver can help with cleaning to reduce this risk.

However, its not just cleaning agents that can put your loved one at risk for a painful chemical burn. People with diabetes are in jeopardy if they use products that contain capsaicin, the substance that makes chili peppers spicy. Products containing capsaicin often are used to relieve pain from a number of conditions, such as:

Muscle aches, strains, and sprains
Neuralgia, a type of nerve pain caused by shingles and other diseases

If your loved one has diabetes, be particularly mindful of products that contain capsaicin. The skin may have cracks that arent visible to the naked eye, and topical creams or ointments with capsaicin can cause a painful burning sensation if theyre applied to an open wound.

Call 911 right away if your loved one has a serious burn, or take them to the emergency room. In the home, our nurses follow theNational Patient Safety Goalsfor home care, which include specific safety protocols. Were accredited by theJoint Commission, and our nurses conduct home safety evaluations as part of our personalized approach to caring for your loved one. Burns might not be top of mind for diabetes care, but theyre a risk our caregivers are trained to assess and reduce.

Other Articles You May Like

Common Running Injuries & Symptoms

Running is very accessibleit doesn't require any special equipment or a gym membershipwhich is why so many individuals decide to do it. Running can take a toll on the body, especially when the body is not used to the training or the training intensity changes too much in a short period of time. Injuries are more likely to occur when running without the proper warm-up or attire.Listed below are some common injuries that runners may face, as well as signs and symptoms to look out for.Plantar FasciitisThe plantar fascia is a band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. It supports the arch at the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the fascia tissue that links the heel to the base of the toes becomes inflamed. One of the main symptoms of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel, especially after exercise or first thing in the morning.Achilles TendonitisThe achilles tendon is the band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the leg to the heel bone. Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury to the achilles tendon. Symptoms can include a mild to severe ache or pain in the back of the leg or above the heel. Tenderness and stiffness in the morning, which gets better with activity, can also occur.IT (Iliotibial) Band SyndromeThe IT band is a thick band of tissue (ligament) that runs on the outside of the leg; it starts at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shinbone below the knee joint. IT band syndrome occurs when the band of tissue gets swollen and irritated from rubbing against the hip or knee bone. Symptoms can include hip or knee pain, redness, and warmth around the outside of the knee. The symptoms may start after exercise, and as they worsen, you will feel pain during exercise and during rest periods.Runners KneeRunners knee is a dull and aching pain that is felt behind the knee cap, especially where it meets the femur. Symptoms of runner's knee can include swelling, popping or grinding of the knee, and pain around or behind the knee.Ankle SprainAnkle sprains are one of the most common injuries that occur at all ages and at all activity levels. Ankle sprains occur when the ankle ligaments are stretched beyond their limits and tear. Sprains can range from a tiny tear to a complete tear of the ligament. Symptoms of ankle sprains can include swelling, pain, bruising, tenderness, and instability of the ankle.FracturesFractures are breaks or cracks in a bone. There are different kinds of fractures and different severities. Symptoms of fractures can include swelling, bruising, tenderness, or deformity. Fractures can occur in most bones; the most common area for fractures to occur in runners is in the foot or ankle.If you are experiencing any of the conditions or symptoms listed above, please call our office at 239 - 325 - 4090 to schedule an appointment for evaluation.

The #1 Exercise to Do as You Get Older

Often the hardest part of doing something new is getting started, and that's especially true about exercise. This article from AARP makes it easy to get started with the most important exercise to help you age healthy: squats. Five or ten squats are easy to do while you wait for the coffee to brew or the microwave to finish heating.Even when we're healthy we sometimes need a little extra help with the house or errands. Visit our website at to learn more about how Rose Hill Stay-at-Home Services can help you or a loved one stay in independent and at home.

What to Look for When Visiting Older Adults During the Holidays

For many families, the holidays are the only time they have to spend together, and COVID-19 has made that more challenging. Phone calls and emails are great ways to connect with loved ones from afar, but the distance can make it hard to notice changes in a persons appearance or surroundings that could indicate they need help. During socially-distanced, masked visits or on video chat, families should pay attention to: The Condition of the HomeIs it messier or more cluttered than usual?Is there spoiled food in the refrigerator or cupboards?Are bills not being paid on time?Are household goods being put away in the wrong places?The Persons ConditionDo they have unexplained weight loss?Are they wearing clothes that are dirty or inappropriate for the weather?Are they having trouble with toileting or basic hygiene such as showering or brushing their teeth?Have they fallen recently?Do they appear to be off-balance?Are they having difficulty sleeping?The Persons BehaviorsAre they missing scheduled medical visits or telehealth appointments?Are they forgetting to refill prescriptions or take medications as prescribed?Do they seem confused when you talk to them about topics theyd normally understand?Are they exhibiting any personality changes or mood swings?These sorts of deficits could be a sign that they need extra help. At ComForCare Home Care, we understand the challenges that can arise with aging. Home care can help older adults continue to live independently in their own home and do all the things they love. Contact us today to learn more about how we help people live their best lives possible. Please call us with any questions, 720-575-5576.