The way they're treated by other people can cause young burn survivors more distress than their physical challenges, two surveys find.
In one, researchers asked 64 burn survivors between 17 and 25 years of age what they found hardest to deal with. The seven most common responses: people staring; being bullied; memories of being burned; needing more surgeries; self-consciousness about scars; unwanted questions; pain and itching.
In the second survey, 147 burn survivors between 10 and 16 years of age and 81 young adult survivors were asked about each of the seven issues.
More than 70% were bothered by staring and bullying. More than half reported issues with scars (65%), memories of being burned (52%), and pain and itching (50%). Scarring bothered girls much more than boys.
For the younger survivors, 61% were bothered most by memories and unwanted questions, the findings showed.
There were some significant differences between the two age groups. Child burn survivors were more likely than young adults to report being troubled by unwanted questions (61% versus 43%). Young adults were much more likely to be upset about being bullied (63% versus 46%).
The findings were published recently in the Journal of Burn Care & Research.
Burn treatment typically focuses on physical wounds, but the survey results suggest that survivors require more help to deal with traumatic memories and social anxieties, according to the researchers.
"Over the years, we have made many advancements in treating the physical wounds of burn survivors, but more needs to be done to treat the social and emotional wounds that come from these injuries," said Ruth Rimmer, former director of psychosocial research for the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health in Phoenix.
"Our research shows that the most difficult issue that children and young adult survivors deal with is the reaction they get from other people. Giving them the tools to handle these interactions is critical to their well-being," she said in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more on burns.