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Burns & Weight Loss

by
author image Marc Chase
Marc Chase is a veteran investigative newspaper reporter and editor of 12 years. Specializing in computer-assisted reporting, he holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Arts in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois.
Burns & Weight Loss
Extra proteins, including lean meats, are essential for maintaining weight and healing in burn victims. Photo Credit Erich Eggimann/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Proper nutrition and monitoring of weight are essential to the healthful recovery of severe burn victims. Weight loss is a common symptom of burns, as the injuries and the body's natural functions of healing kick in. Weight loss is a common enemy of burn victims, who need a regular flow of certain nutrients during recovery.

Significance

Burn Injury Online notes that a number of patients suffering severe burns lose a large amount of weight early in the treatment process. This occurs largely because burn injuries increase the metabolism, with severe burns causing a significant boost, according to The Journal of Nutrition. This means the body breaks down food and other nutrients quicker, leading to weight loss. In the first days following severe burn injuries, the energy needs of patients increase by as much as 100 percent as their systems attempt to heal the wounds, often causing malnutrition, according to the Journal.

Dietary Considerations

The issue of weight loss in severe burn victims makes proper nutrition paramount to healing. Burn Injury Online reports that severe burn victims require diets high in both calories and protein to return to normal body weight and to regenerate damaged skin and other tissues. Protein rebuilds muscle and skin, essential to healthy weight levels, according to Burn Injury Online, and severe burn victims often must consume one or two extra servings of protein, including lean meats, dairy products and beans each day. Burn victims already suffering from significant weight loss must consume diets high in calories as well to restore healthy weight levels. The Burn Survivor Resource Center notes doctors often order extra carbohydrates and fat, with as much as 30 percent of a severe burn victims' calories coming from fat.

Vitamins and Other Supplements

In the race to restore nutrients fast enough to keep up with the hypermetabolism of severe burn victims, sometimes traditional protein and calories through food falls short of needed levels. Victims whose systems require higher protein levels beyond food often consume fortified food replacement drinks for extra nutrition, according to Burn Injury Online. And the Burn Survivor Resource Center notes vitamin and mineral supplements help replace and replenish energy needed during healing.

Challenges Beyond Weight Loss

Severe burns -- and the subsequent malnutrition -- leads to other treatment challenges beyond weight loss, according to the Journal of Nutrition. Immune systems of burn victims suffer when denied enough protein, often inhibiting the fight against infection and other disease. The Journal of Nutrition notes that severe burns were the major cause of immunodeficiency before the prevalence of AIDS cases in the 1980s.

Treating Child Victims

The Burn Survivor Resource Center reports that special challenges lie in the treatment of child burn victims. Children are smaller than adults, meaning less body fat and muscle mass to begin with. Doctors treating children with severe burns take current height and weight measurements and document those figures prior to the occurrence of the burns. From there, doctors create a special pediatric growth chart to determine extra nutritional needs and plot the recovery process, according to the center.

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