You’ve seen it in films, maybe on the news, but have you ever wondered what it’s really like to be on fire?
Well, praise the internet, the font of all (hopefully) useless but totally fascinating knowledge, because one curious user has asked Reddit to describe the pain inflicted by flame.
The answers – courtesy of Reddit users who have suffered burns disseminating their experiences – vary from practical and insightful, to horrifying and downright painful to read.
This glass-half-full kinda guy, who ‘doused himself with burning solvent as a teenager’ agrees that the worst pain is after the fire has been put out.
The really excruciating part is the treatment. The doc had the burns wet bandaged (with Silvadene cream I think?) for a week or so, with the dead skin/ointment carefully scraped off daily. Having fresh burns scraped clean feels at least as bad as you’d expect. On the bright side, that kept the second degree burns from scarring to any noticeable amount.
This guy welded a white hot steel rod to his hand. As he pulled it away, muscle peeled off with the iron.
Apparently the pain of being on fire varies with the degree of lasting damage the burn leaves, according to one user.
What was painful for me was the local anaesthetic injection when they had to debride the infected burn.
Having said all that, my burns were deep partial thickness second degree… Mostly painless due to the depth, any deeper would have been third degree, also painless.
This guy, who’s had some pretty brutal burns elaborates, explaining that third degree burns remove your nerve endings and eliminate all sense of pain.
However, the aftermath still sounds unbearable.
He went onto explain the definition of fourth degree burns.
He also tells how he got them at just 11-years old:
Basically 4th degree burn is where your flesh melts to the muscle or bone.
How it happened: I was climbing next to my mom who was at a desk. She had hot potpourri oil going next to her. My foot kicked the electric cable and it dumped on me from my neck down. I immediately went into shock and don’t remember anything else. Some how it caught on fire as well from a candle or something.
Other burn victims have a similarly light-hearted attitude to their skin grafts though, like this guy, who gets lucky every day.
Others spoke about the emotional trauma of suffering extreme burns.
One man wrote:
I have treated but never-cured PTSD and from the burns ward, not being on fire.
This essayist compares the pain to that of extreme sunburn, but they’d still rather be burnt than have kidney stones, apparently.
This straight-talking welder has learned to deal with his highly dangerous job in the most chill way.
He tells of the three times he’s brushed with fire:
Welder here, I’ve been engulfed three times. The first time is pure panic, suddenly your eyes are watering, its smoky and it stings where it touches your skin, I froze up and started screaming for help. The second time I used my gloves to pat myself out and only lost one pant leg. The third time my sweater and underwear went up, lots of smoke and first degree burns on the neck, and super sweaty balls, and all I thought was “fuck, I still have 4 hours left in my shift…”
This guy – who was so in shock he went through his supermarket’s self checkout to pay for his bandages – took his treatment into his own hands and regretted it almost instantly.
Sometimes, it’s the memory of pain that does the most lasting damage according to one Reddit user.
They recounted their friend’s tale:
I have a friend who ended up with burns on a decent portion of their body. I’m not certain at the moment the details of what happened, just that they were in the hospital for a while. From what I do recall, it had to have been pretty all-encompassing, unending, horrifying pain. They ended up addicted to morphine and had to detox at the later stages of the healing process.
The memory of it is still terrifying to them too. A while back our group of friends went to see a scary movie, and it ended up that one of the characters was going to be burned alive. It somewhere in the middle of the movie, probably still twenty-thirty minutes left, and my friend asked me to take them home, because it was too much to watch. I’ve never seen the end of that movie.
Others say the fear itself of being burnt is the worst.
This woman described an incident of ‘complete sensory overload, followed by excruciating, radiating pain’
when play turned painful, and the ensuing ‘constant dull ache’ which ‘spiked into sharp agony’ whenever she moved.
I did a lot of fire play with a partner of mine in the local BDSM scene. You know that old adage about how when you play with fire, you’re going to get burned? Turns out that shit is literal as hell. Who knew?
The kind of play we most often engaged in involved administering rubbing alcohol to the skin, lighting it, and dousing it after a few moments. Most of the time, we’d use a squirt or two from a spray bottle, light it, and he’d smother the flame almost as soon as it ignited.
One night, a small pool of alcohol had formed under my legs as I lay back on the table we were using. When my partner lit me, the pool caught fire. Before I knew it, the entire lower half of my body was engulfed in flames.
Once the fire was out, and the shock had started to subside, then I finally noticed the pain, which steadily grew over the course of an hour or so. Burns suck. Until they finally healed, I was in constant pain. Just a dull incessant ache that radiated out from the affected areas, and spiked into sharp agony if I moved too much.
This hero recalls the pain of being burnt was actually chilling.
With all of these first hand accounts, it’s clear that, as previously suspected, being set on fire is really, really painful.
Stop, drop and roll, kids.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.