Let’s have a short talk about treating burns and how to provide first aid, until you can be seen by a medical professional.
Burns are serious injuries that can happen, regardless if you are in the city or the forest. Although first and second degree burns may seem superficial, these burns have a tendency to get infected. It is always best to seek professional medical treatment, if you or someone you know gets burned.
There are several ways for you to sustain a burn: Heat, Chemicals, Electricity, Friction, Light, and Radiation. Direct exposure to any of these can give you a burn.
The degree of your burn is categorized by the depth of the burn. There are four degrees of burns, the lower degrees being less severe, than the higher degrees.
Burns in order from least severe to most severe:
- First Degree Burns
- Second Degree Burns
- Third Degree Burns
- Fourth Degree Burns.
First degree burns: These burns involve the surface layer of the epidermis (skin). These types of burns make the skin red and can be quite painful. A mild sunburn is a good example of a first degree burn.
Second degree burns: These burns affect the surface layer of the epidermis and the immediate underlying layer or the “dermis”. Like first degree burns, the skin is often red and painful. and tend to form blisters. A blister can act as a break in the skin and will be prone to infection. Second degree burns are typically the most common burns sustained.
Third degree burns: Third degree burns burn through both the epidermis and dermis, this means the entire thickness of the skin, aka full thickness burns. These are severe burns that appear pale, charred, and are very obviously burnt. Third degree burns may be painless due to the nerve endings being damaged or burned away. They are painful if the surrounding tissue do not suffer the same third degree burn. These burns are prone to infection and may eventually develop into scars, contractures or adhesions.
Fourth degree burns: Fourth degree burns are the most severe. This is a burn involving the muscle and the bone. It is painless and prone to infections. Many fourth degree burns end up with gangrene and require amputation of the appendage or area.
Assessment and Treatment of Burns
In first aid, you have been taught to secure the patient’s Airway, Breathing, and Circulation or ABC’s, for patients who are conscious. If your patient is unconscious and does NOT have a heartbeat, you need to change the order to Circulation, Airway, and Breathing or CAB’s.
We assume all our patients are conscious and relatively stable.
The first thing to remember when treating a burn is to remove the source of the burn from the affected area. Then you may administer cooling to prevent aggravation of the burn and further tissue loss. Relief of the pain should also be a prime concern.
Wash the burn – Cool the burn by holding it under cool and clean running water for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain dissipates. The cool running water helps to prevents swelling and further tissue injury, relieves pain and helps to wash out any debris that may cause infection. The water should be cool and not cold. Never apply ice to the burn, as this can cause more tissue burn.
Most first degree burns can also be treated with Aloe Vera for pain relief and to keep it moist. You can also apply sterile gauze soaked in sterile 0.9 Sodium Chloride to keep the burn cool, moist, and relieve pain.
Cover the burn – The next step is to cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Do not use cotton or other similar materials as lint may get into the wound. Wrap the gauze loosely around the burn, without any pressure. This will protect the burn and blistered skin.
Pain Relief – You can give over the counter oral pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin, after you verify that the patient is not allergic to any of these medication. Aspirin is not recommended for young children and teenagers, regardless if they are allergic or not. Keep in mind that some over the counter pain relievers need to be taken on a full stomach or they may cause stomach pains.
Minor burns, such as first degree and second degree burns usually heal without further treatment. However, it is still wise to have a medical professional see the burn area, even if it appears minor. Remember to watch out for any potential signs of infection or complications such as increased swelling, redness, pain, fever, or pus and blistering. Seek immediate medical consultation if these symptoms occur, and do not attempt any further home treatment.
Large burns may lead to dehydration and infection. These burns require immediate medical treatment or they could become be fatal. Do not apply any lotion or other topical treatments to the affected area.
Always seek medical attention for any injury!