They may vary in severity and cause, but burns are a pretty common feature of life in the modern world.
With so many places that burns can occur, it’s worth knowing how to treat them in case of an emergency.
Most minor burns can be treated quite easily in the home, and the information that we provide you may be all that you require to treat the burn and make your patient more comfortable in the healing process.
However, when you see the burn you think that it may have gone beyond a ‘minor’ injury, it’s important to see a doctor immediately. These measures are primarily ‘first aid’, which makes them necessary in both cases where you are treating at home, and cases where you will need to see a doctor.
There are a number of different ways that you can burn yourself, which is worth understanding so you can avoid areas of danger. Types of burns include heat burns caused by fire, cold temperature burns caused by freezing, liquid scald burns from hot liquids, chemical burns from either chemical products or natural foods like chill, electrical burns from shocks and tar or hot plastic burns from melting objects.
Now that we’ve looked at what causes burns, let’s look at the typical burn symptoms, and how to treat them.
Burns typically present in the following ways, but first aiders should be aware that not all these symptoms may be seen at the same time:
- high levels of pain
- skin turns red, peeling or blistered (may present as black in electrical burns)
- clear fluid coming from injured area
- swelling of injured area (may appear later)
- patient can be cold, swear and pale, feeling faint or dizzy, and may also complain of vomiting or nausea
Steps To Treatment
Learn the basics step on how to treat a burn and how to assess when to seek medical help.
Remove Source Of Heat
The first thing you need to do is get the patient away from the source of heat, or remove the source of heat from the patient. Whether you move the patient or the heat source will depend on the kind of heat source, and the severity of the burn. Always make the choice that is safest for you, and easiest for both parties.
Cool Burned Area
The next step is to cool the burned area. There are a few ways you can do this.
First make sure that the patient’s clothing is not hot or affected by any chemical splash. If it is, carefully remove it and discard. Then remove any jewelry the patient might be wearing especially on the burned area in the early stages to ensure it won’t get stuck when swelling occurs. Make sure you never ever attempt to remove either clothing or jewelry that is stuck to the burned area of the patient, as you’re likely to cause more damage.
The burned area can be cooled by running cool water from a tap or shower gently over the burn for about 20 minutes. Depending on the location of the burn, you can also place the burned area in a bowl or bucket of cool (but not iced) water. A first aid burn gel could also be used instead of water. If the victim is a small child or baby do not place them in a cool bath or shower for the entire 20 minutes, as this may put them at risk of hypothermia.
Assess Severity Of Burn
If the person you are treating is badly injured, in significant pain, has been burned on the eyes, or is suffering from a burn bigger than half of their arm, it’s time to call an ambulance. If you don’t think you need to call an ambulance, it’s worth having the burn checked by a doctor, particularly if the pain doesn’t lessen, or the burn is located on the hands, face, genitals or joints.
Dress The Burn
Once the burned area has been cooled, it’s time to dress the wound. You need to use a sterile dressing, and make sure that it’s non-adherent, that is it won’t stick to the affected area. If no dressings are on hand, a piece of clean plastic kitchen wrap can be used to protect the burn from outside infection. Remember, you should never break blisters or remove peeled skin from a burn, and your should not put any creams, ointments, lotions or butter on the burn (apart from a first aid burn gel) as this increases the risk of infection.
What other first-aid treatment do you apply in case of burns?
For More Information
All First Aid information in this article was sourced from the St. John Ambulance Australia website. You can read more about First Aid treatments and courses here. Remember that in an emergency always dial Triple Zero (000) for assistance.
SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.