In their study, they used pig skin to mimic the effects of a steam burn in human skin. After exposing the skin to hot steam, they examined the water content of the different layers of the skin with the use of Raman spectroscopy, an analytical method that allows conclusions to be drawn about material properties through the scattering of light.
Scientists discovered that during exposure to hot steam, the heat first penetrates the upper layer of the skin, eventually reaching the lower skin layers. While the process is also seen when the skin is exposed to dry heat, it happens faster in hot steam – with an increase in water content for all skill layers happening in the first 15 seconds. This is because the uppermost layer of the skin has pores that are typically much bigger than a water molecule, allowing water vapor to pass through them without any hindrance. It's only when the epidermis becomes swollen from the amount of water it has absorbed that the pores become too small for the water vapor. However, the lower skin layers may have already been damaged, even if it's invisible at first.
The afterburn effect is a problem with all burns. The epidermis, the outer layer of the skin, is a relatively poor heat conductor. After the skin has absorbed heat, particularly in the lower layers of the skin, the releasing of heat occurs very slowly. Because of this, the heat can harm the tissue for longer and cause more damage. This effect is especially strong when burns are caused by water vapor.
People who work with steam pipes or in the kitchen are often at risk of steam burns. When the boiling hot steam comes into contact with the skin, it will immediately cause burns. Even firefighters are also at risk because of their own sweat. If their sweat evaporates under the heavy protective clothing in the heat of the fire and is trapped, it condenses on the cooler skin and burns it.
"In the case of a steam burn, the skin must, therefore, be cooled for a long time - two minutes in an ice bath is not enough to dissipate the high amount of energy from the deeper layers of skin," explained René Rossi, lead researcher of the study.
Here are some things you can do to minimize the damage caused by steam burns.
Learn more about other remedies that promote skin healing at Remedies.news.