How to Treat a Burn
Knowing how to treat a burn can save you much pain and scarring, or even a trip to the hospital. Whether sun burnt, scolded, dry burnt etc, this article should cover the essentials of first aid treatment for burns.
1- Gauge how serious the burn is. If the burn is just red and is sensitive (such as sun burn), then it’s only first-degree. If there is swelling or a slight rise in the skin (bad sun burn or splatters of hot oil), then it’s a second-degree burn (both the epidermis and the dermis have been damaged). If the burn has reached the underlying tissue, the burn may appear white and leathery and the nerves may also be damaged, then it is a third-degree burn. If there is little pain and the burn is blackened or charred, it may have reached the muscle and even bone and is classed as a fourth-degree burn. You may also get a chemical burn caused by a corrosive liquid such as acids or alkalis. It is hard to judge the severity of a chemical burn as its effects may be longer lasting.
2- For treating minor burns, run cool (not cold or ice) running water over the burn. Something less than 10cm in diameter and fits the description of first or second-degree burns is considered to be a minor burn. Firstly, run cool (not cold or ice) running water over the damaged area for 15 minutes. Should running water not be immediately available, submerse the affected area in still water. Once removed from water, wrap the affected area lightly in dry, clean, non-stick, gauze to protect from dirt. The dressing should be changed daily, and once any open wounds have healed, you can begin to apply aloe or a moisturiser to prevent scarring. Should the area be warm or look weepy after a day, it may be infected. Should this occur, you will need to treat the wound with an antibacterial agent and should the infection continue, begin a course of anti-biotics.
3- For treating a major burn, call the emergency services and look for signs of shock and other injuries. Any large second-degree burn, a third or fourth-degree burn, or any substantial burns covering delicate area of the body (including face) as well as joints, are considered major burns. If available, call for the emergency services as soon as possible. Awaiting their arrival, do not remove anything stuck to the burn as this may cause bleeding. Compress the injured area with cool, wet material (but again avoid ice). Pay attention for signs of shock such as an elevated heartbeat, disorientation, short sharp breathing or clammy skin. Should they be suffering from shock, despite cooling the damaged areas, sit them upright (if possible) and place a blanket around their shoulders to keep them warm, keeping them as calm as you can, preferably elevating the affected area over the heart. Should using the emergency services not be an option, the patient should first be stabilised and the wound cooled, before attempting any treatment- preventing infection in this case and stemming bleeding are your priorities.
4- For treating chemical burns, first you need to remove any traces of the chemical that may still be present. Do not use water first! Should you be removing a liquid, dab clean with a towel. Should you be removing a powder, use a very soft brush or light strokes with a soft material. Only once the majority of any chemical has been removed should you remove the rest with running water. Wrap the damaged area in a clean cloth or clean bandage.
If possible, consult a doctor should the burn: be anything more than second-degree or be over 10cm in diameter, be on delicate areas of the body, be affecting breathing, be accompanied or followed with any signs of illness or deep routed infection, or be accompanied by smoke inhalation.
Never burst blisters caused by burns.
This ‘how to’ is not a substitute for proper professional care and advice. You are using this advice of your own free will and Mans Guide to Everything Ltd are not responsible for any injury or damage that results from following this ‘how to’ guide.
Best practices are constantly evolving so this article may be out of date!