If you’re like most people, the thought of being burned sends a wave of fear through your body. And rightly so – burns can be incredibly painful and even life-threatening. But if you do suffer a burn, don’t panic! There are some simple first aid measures you can take to ease the pain and protect the wound. So read on to learn what to do if you or someone you know is burned.
Definition of Burns
Injuries to the skin caused by direct contact with hot substances (such as hot liquids), the sun, fire, chemicals, or electricity (including steam) are known as burns. The sensation of burning that is associated with this injury is only one aspect of what is meant by the term “burn.” Burns are characterised by severe damage to the skin, which leads to the death of the skin cells that are affected.
Burns is one of the most common types of injuries that can occur in the home, particularly among children. Children frequently sustain injuries in the kitchen as a result of contact with hot liquids, such as soups and hot cereals. Depending on what caused the burn and how severe it was, the majority of people can recover from burns without suffering any serious health consequences. Burns of a more serious nature require immediate emergency medical attention in order to reduce the risk of complications and death. Medical attention is required for severe burns. First aid can usually take care of minor burns.
Causes of Burns
Burns can be caused by many things. The most common things that cause burns are fire, hot liquids, steam, and coming into contact with hot surfaces. Some of the other causes are:
- Metal, glass, or other things that are hot
- Sunlight, UV rays or ultraviolet radiation
- Strong acids, lye, paint thinner, or gasoline are examples of chemicals.
The first step in treating a burn injury is determining whether the burn is a minor or major one. That determination will direct action and treatment. Read on to learn the difference and how to treat both types.
What is a major burn?
Major burns are serious medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. They can be recognized by four primary characteristics: deep tissue damage, dry and leathery skin, a large size, and a charred appearance. Major burns are usually the result of exposure to flames, hot liquids, or chemicals. They can be extremely painful and often require hospitalization. Treatment for major burns typically includes pain relief, wound care, and skin grafting. If you suspect that you or someone else has suffered a major burn, it is important to seek medical help immediately.
First aid for a major burn
The first step in treating a major burn is to call 911 or seek emergency medical care. Here are the steps to take until professional help arrives:
- Make sure you and the person who was burned are safe and out of harm’s way. Get them away from where the burn is coming from. If the burn is caused by electricity, turn off the power source before you touch it.
- Look to see if they’re still breathing. If you’ve been trained, start rescue breathing if you need to.
- Take off things that are tight, like belts and jewellery, that is on or near the burns. Most burned areas swell up quickly.
- Cover up the burn. Use a clean bandage or cloth that has been dampened with clean, cool water.
- Put fingers and toes apart. If your hands and feet are burned, use dry, clean, non-sticky bandages to separate your fingers and toes.
- Take clothes off of areas that have been burned, but don’t try to take off clothes that are stuck to the skin.
- Don’t put the burned person or body parts in water. Hypothermia, which is a severe loss of body heat, can happen if you put big, bad burns in water.
- Raise the area that burned. If you can, raise the area that was burned above their heart.
- Watch for signs and symptoms of shock which are shallow breathing, a pale face, and passing out.
Things not to do
- Don’t breathe or cough on the wound because that could spread germs.
- Don’t use any ointment, butter, ice, spray, cream, or other medicine or home remedy.
- Don’t give the person who was burned anything to eat or drink.
- If you think they have an airway burn, don’t put a pillow under their head.
What is a minor burn?
Minor burns are recognized by the following characteristics: less than 3 inches in diameter, surface redness (like a sunburn), skin blistering, pain. Minor burns generally do not require medical attention and can be treated at home. To treat a minor burn, run cool water over the affected area for 10-15 minutes, remove any jewelry or clothing that may be constricting the area, apply a sterile bandage or wrap, and take ibuprofen if needed for pain relief. If the burn is more serious, characterized by deep tissue damage, extreme pain, or difficulty breathing, then seek medical attention immediately. For more severe burns, never put ice on the affected area as this can further damage the skin. Instead, cover the area with a clean cloth and elevate if possible to reduce swelling.
First aid for a minor burn
- Cool it down. After holding the burn under cool water that is running, put cool, wet compresses on it until the pain goes away.
- Take things that are tight, like rings, off the burned area. Move quickly, but gently, before the area starts to swell.
- Avoid breaking blisters. The fluid in blisters protects the area from infection. If a blister breaks, clean the area and put antibiotic ointment on it gently.
- Use a lotion that will keep your skin moist, like one with aloe vera. After the burned area has cooled, put some lotion on it to make it feel better and keep it from drying out.
- Wrap the burn in a loose bandage. Use sterile gauze. Stay away from fluffy cotton that could shed and stick to the wound. Also, try not to press too hard on the burned skin.
- If you need to, take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Think about taking Tylenol, Advil, or naproxen (Aleve).
Source: Mayo Clinic
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a burn, it is important to know how to respond. The first aid for major and minor burns we’ve outlined should help you provide some relief until professional medical help arrives. However, if you want to be fully prepared in case of an emergency, we recommend booking a CPR First Aid course. This will teach you the skills necessary to provide lifesaving first aid in any situation. Have you ever had to administer first aid for a burn? What was the experience like? Hopefully, you don’t ever experience what it’s like but learning the know-how will come in handy to save a life. Book a course at our newest venue, Suite 904, 343 Little Collins St Melbourne CBD to be prepared for any emergency.