Returning to Normal Activities After a Burn Injury

Before a burn injury, regular activities such as grocery shopping, going to work or school and even walking down the street happen anonymously. Most regular activities can occur with little to no attention. However, after a burn injury, completing normal activities may come with unwanted attention.  Whether scars are visible or hidden, many burn survivors feel apprehensive about returning to normal activities and how others will react to their injury. 


Burn survivors at Phoenix World Burn Congress


Visible Burns

Curiosity is normal human behavior – and let’s face it, when we see something that is different, we look. For those with visible buns, returning to normal activities can cause anxiety because we are unsure of how others will react when seeing a burn injury. 


Hidden Burns

Hidden burns present their own unique challenges, as burn survivors with less visible scars may be worried about how others will react when their burn injury is uncovered. For example, some burn survivors can return to work or school without having to reveal their burns but returning to the gym or beach causes more anxiety. 



Facing the world after surviving a burn injury can be challenging and many are often unprepared for the reaction of others. Specific strategies can help prepare survivors and families the skills to use when faced with stares, comments, setting boundaries, and feeling uncertain in social situations. STEPS is a simple and effective “tool” developed by Barbara Kammerer Quayle to help burn survivors feel confident when entering new social situations. 


S – Self Talk: Tell yourself nice things!

T – Tone of Voice: Talk friendly, happy and excited!

E – Eye Contact: Look ‘em in the eye!

P – Posture: Stand up straight!

S – Smile: Give a warm and friendly smile!


It is ok to feel apprehensive when interacting with others after a burn injury. You can use these strategies when meeting strangers, returning to school or work, or going into public places. Preparing and practicing uncomfortable social situations is a great way to be better prepared in public. 


If you need further assistance, feel isolated, or depression, or are avoiding social situations, please contact Phoenix Society for additional resources. If you want to learn more about STEPS, other tools, and how to use them, you can check out Phoenix Society’s Beyond Surviving, Tools for Thriving program here.