First Aid Basics: How to Treat Burns

A burn is one of the most serious and yet most common preventable accidents in today’s society. Of all the burn victims, 75% are young children. It is the second most common cause of death for children under three, and when you understand this, you understand just how important it is to teach children about dangerous areas of the home and to limit access to these parts of the house as far as possible.

A burn is a unique wound in that it has the ability to grow inside the tissue and continue damaging the body long after the original cause is removed. Starting as a minor burn, it can grow swiftly into a devastating injury with high risk of infection. Any delay in treatment will cause further damage.

So, how do we treat burns?

Let’s start with what not to do. You have in all likelyhood heard the old wives tales, use butter, margarine, ice or milk. All of these methods, cause the heat of the burn to become trapped inside the tissue and severe risk of infection. None of these methods is recommended!

Degree of the Burn

Symptom Treatment
First Redness Cool water, hydrogel/burnshield
Superficial 2nd Blisters Cool water, Cream, hydrogel / burnshield. Do not break blister
Deep 2nd Open wound, wet, white, temporary scaring Cool running water, wet bandages or burnshield, then transport to the doctor
Third Open wound, wet, red, permanent                   scarring

Cool running water, wet bandages or burnshield, then transport to the doctor

It doesn’t matter how the burn first occurred, the main aim is to cool the afflicted limb as quickly as possible in order to extract the heat from the afflicted tissue immediately and for sufficient length of time. Cooling until the heat subsides, is inefficient and cooling should be maintained for at least 10 minutes. The preferred tempreture to treat any burn is between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius, cool running water is recommended. When the burn has cooled the open wound should be loosely covered with wet sterile bandages (not cotton wool!). Clothes that have been drenched in the cooling process should not be removed as this may lead to further injury, a doctor will remove them professionally.

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