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After a child has had a serious injury, such as a significant burn, they may need rehabilitation to help them recover and maximise their ability to participate in activities at home, school and the community. Rehabilitation for burns involves physiotherapy (often called
physio), and in some cases, occupational therapy (OT).
Children who have had a significant burn will usually start having physio early in their treatment. The main reasons for having physio are to:
Children who have burns to their hands or wrists will start OT early in their treatment as well. The main reasons for having OT are to:
While your child is an inpatient (staying in hospital), they will be seen by a physiotherapist, who will start your child on a physio program. They may also be seen by an occupational therapist if their burns are on the hand or wrist, to see how well your child functions in their ability to
carry out daily tasks (e.g. eating, self-care or dressing).
If your child has had skin grafts, any exercises will not be started until the grafts have started to heal.
Not all children will require OT – this will depend on the age of your child, the extent of their injury and if there has been a change in function.
The physiotherapist and/or occupational therapist will assess your child's burns and scars and provide the best possible scar treatment. The aim is to have a scar that is as flat, supple (able to stretch) and as soft as possible.
It can take one to two years for a scar to mature. This depends on:
Sometimes, scarring can become excessive (keloid). In these cases, there are special dressings that can be used to help reduce the development of keloid scars, including:
Your child's physiotherapist and/or occupational therapist will give you information and instructions for ongoing care at home. This may include exercises, positioning, stretches and bandages or garments to wear. Talk to the physiotherapist/ occupational therapist and ask about
anything you are not sure of.
Your child may need ongoing physio or OT appointments, which can be done as an outpatient. These appointments may take place at hospital or somewhere closer to your home.
My child is very reluctant to do his exercises because he
says they hurt. What can we do about this?
Your child's physiotherapist is careful to recommend
exercises that won't cause extra pain for your child. Pain relief may be
required to prevent excessive discomfort, or you could focus on distraction
When can my child return to sport and other physical
Skin that is recovering from a burn is particularly
sensitive and prone to infection or break down. It is important to avoid participating
in sports until the burn has healed adequately. You should discuss this with
your child's doctor or physiotherapist as protective garments may be
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Burns Unit. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed August 2018.
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