CPR First Aid

On The Intricacies of Water On a Burn

The saying that “opposites attract” rings true in many people’s minds. One of the most common examples of this saying in action is through the attraction seen in magnets. Another one is that when there is a fire, people naturally think about water to put it out.

However, like everything in this world, there are no absolutes. This saying may be accurate on some occasions, but it isn’t always the case. Despite water being the opposite of fire, should people be putting water on burns? 

Let’s look deeper into the intricacies of water on a burn. 

On Water and Burns

If anyone has ever been burned, whether from holding a really hot object or getting a little singed from a shock, one can attest to the burning pain it comes with. The initial reaction to the hot feeling is to seek out some water. 

The most common thing people do is to run the burned area over running water. It helps to soothe the pain and counteracts the heat that is felt. 

The question now is, is it a good idea to do so? 

The answer, like many others, is not a simple yes or no. Water can either be a boon or a hindrance. There are intricacies that come into play, specifically when running water over a burn.

Burns hurt! From hot objects or shocks, it's pain. Seek water fast. Run it under cold water.

Cold Water

The popular practice of running cold water on burns is now debunked. Medical experts and practitioners state that cold water on a burn is not the way to go. 

The reason for this is the affected tissues. Cold water may sound like a good idea due to the opposite temperature, but it negatively affects the tissue in the burned area. 

The cold water can further damage these tissues. The initial soothing sensation goes away 20 minutes in. It also causes a lower skin temperature.

In addition, in a study done on rats, burns on these rodents were treated with ice cold water. It saw that those treated with cold water had more damage in the areas between the burns. 

Warm Water

When addressing a burn, running water over it is only a good idea if the water is warm. This is the best way to treat burns.

In the same study mentioned above, the rats treated with warm water had significantly less damage between the burned areas.

The warm water increases the microcirculatory perfusion of the skin. This relates to the density of vessels and their ability to provide nutrients, blood, and oxygen to the affected areas. The warm water does promote increased circulation. 

In addition, running warm water over a burn can help to stop the spreading of the burned area. Running cold water on burns stops the healing process.

Additional Tips For Water On a Burn

Broken Skin

Running warm water over a burn is certainly a good idea. However, if your skin is broken, you may consider holding off on that if you do not have access to a clean supply of water. 

If your skin is broken, that means that certain things can get inside your skin and body. If you are using water from a water source that isn’t clean, this just means that there is a big chance to introduce bacteria that could bring about something much worse. 

This is made much worse because a burn victim’s immune system is much lower than normal. Thus, the bacteria could bring about certain diseases that people can do better without. 

Chemical Burns

Chemical burns are much different than the ones coming from hot objects or fires. These could be caused by chemicals like acid, paint thinners, and bleach just to name a few. When these chemicals come in contact with skin or a person’s eyes, it causes major irritation or tissue damage. 

When this happens, warm water is still the best option. However, there are additional steps to be followed.

For starters, if someone else is treating the chemical burn, make sure they wear gloves. Take off any clothing that has also been affected by the chemical. Then, run the burn over warm water. Do this for at least 30 minutes, and repeat it if burning or pains persist.

Avoid Ointment and Sprays

Some people think that ointment and sprays should go on the burn after running water on them. This is something that should be avoided. 

For starters, things like ointment and even butter only serve to slow down the release of heat from the burned area. 

Furthermore, the sticky quality of these substances can bring and keep bacteria and viruses in. Coupled with the burn wound, it could lead to infections. 

Remove Clothing and Jewellery

The last tip we have is to remove any clothing and jewellery in the area. This removal should be done as quickly as possible after the water has been run over it. 

The reason this is important is that clothing and jewellery have a tendency to get stuck on a person’s skin due to the heat. This is something that must be avoided because it can keep heat within the skin and even decrease the blood flow to the area. 

While this is good though, it is best to look at the clothing first. If the piece of clothing is stuck to the skin, do not touch it. Removing it could cause more wounds and open them up for infections.

Proper Burn Treatment

Now that you know the intricacies of the effects of running a burn underwater, let’s look at the proper step-by-step burn treatment.

Understanding underwater burn effects, let's delve into step-by-step treatment.

Remove the Person From the Danger

The first step is to remove the person from the danger. If they are still in contact with the heat source, then you need to stop that before you can do anything else.

If the person is on fire, then you need to stop, drop, and roll them. You will also need to call for medical help right away.

For other types of burns, you can try to move them away from the heat source yourself or have someone else do it. Once they are out of danger, then you can start the next steps of treatment.

Cool the Burn

The next step is to cool the burn. This helps to soothe the pain and also prevents further damage to the skin.

You can do this by running lukewarm water over the burn for at least 20 minutes. You can also use a cool, damp cloth. Remember to avoid using cold water on burns.

Cover the Burn

After you have cooled the burn, you need to cover it with a sterile adhesive bandage or wrap

Make sure that the wrap is loose so that there is no pressure on the skin. You should also avoid putting any ointment on the burn before wrapping it because this can trap heat.

If you are wrapping a large area, then you can use a clean sheet. Just make sure to secure it with tape.

Watch for Signs of Infection

Finally, you need to watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, and pus. If you see any of these signs, then you need to seek medical attention right away.

You should also see a doctor if the pain is severe or if the burn covers a large area of the body.

By following these steps, you can properly treat water on a burn and help to prevent further damage.

In a Flash

Burns can be a tricky thing to deal with. However, by knowing the different effects of cold and warm water on a burn, you now better understand what you should do and what you shouldn’t.

Make sure to follow the proper steps to ensure the best possible outcome. If the burns are too severe, or if there are any other symptoms like difficulty breathing, a fever, or very serious burns, then it is best to seek medical attention immediately.

Like fires, burns can happen in a flash. When they do, it is best that you know how to offer treatment and care.

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