April 16, 2022 4 min read

The type of burn treatment you use depends a lot on the type of burn or scald you are treating. Burns can happen in an instant, and you never know if or when it may occur. For this reason we recommend keeping some basic items in your first aid kit that can be used for a variety of burns.

It is also really important that first aid is applied as soon as possible to any burns or scalds as this will help to limit the amount of damage that occurs to the skin.

No matter what type of burn you are treating, there are a few things you need to do to limit the amount of damage to the skin that are common for all burns.

First aid treatment for burns

  • Stop the burning process as soon as possible. This may mean removing the person from the area (e.g. get out of the sun for sunburn), smothering flames with a blanket or rolling on the ground to smother the flames, or possibly even dousing the flames with water. If you are the first aider, remember to be careful not put yourself at risk of getting burnt as well.
  • Remove clothing or jewellerynear the burnt area of skin but be careful not to remove anything that's actually stuck to the burnt skin as doing so is likely to cause more damage. If any items are stuck to the skin call for medical assistance.
  • Cool the burn with cool or lukewarm running waterfor 20 minutes as soon as possible after the burn has occurred. It’s really important that you don’t use ice, iced water, or any creams or greasy substances like butter (unless they are specifically formulated for treating burns like Burncare Burn Gels.
  • Cover the burned area with cling filmPlacing a layer of cling film over the burn area (rather than wrapping it around the affected limb) will help to keep it clean until the burn can be treated by a medical practitioner. You could also use a clear plastic bag for burned hands.
  • Keep the patient warm.Use a blanket or layers of clothing, but avoid putting them on the area that’s been burned. Keeping warm will help to prevent hypothermia, which can occur if you're cooling a large burned area, especially if you are treating someone very young or elderly.

Burn Treatment: When to seek further medical assistance

Serious burns require further medical treatment so it’s really important to go to your nearest A&E centre if any of the following occurs:

  • The burn results in charred or white skin at the burn site
  • The burn results in blisters at the burn site, and the burn site is on the face, hands, arms, legs and/or genitals
  • The burn is larger than the patient’s hand
  • ALL electrical and chemical burns
  • There are other injuries that also need treating (e.g. broken arm, concussion etc)
  • The patient is showing signs of shock (rapid shallow breathing, sweating, cold clammy skin, weakness and/or dizziness
  • The burn patient is older than 60, younger than 5 or is pregnant
  • The burn patient has a weakened immune system or they have another medical condition such as diabetes, heart/liver/lung disease

Burns can be complicated and there can be some delayed symptoms from smoke inhalation. If your patient experiences:

  • coughing
  • a sore throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • singed nasal hair
  • facial burns

Seek further medical treatment ASAP

Burn Treatment: Electrical burns

All electrical burns should be seen at your nearest A&E as soon as possible. This is because electrical burns often don’t look serious even though they can be incredibly serious. Electrical burns generally occur internally rather than on the skin like most other burns and therefore aren’t usually very visible when they do occur.

Personal safety around electrical burns should be paramount. If the injury occurred from a low-voltage source (up to 220 to 240 volts) such as a domestic electricity supply, remember to safely switch off the power supply. If this can’t be done remove the person from the electrical source using a material that doesn't conduct electricity, such as a wooden stick or a wooden chair.

Do not approach a person who's connected to a high-voltage source (1,000 volts or more). Instead call 111 immediately.

Burn treatment:Acid and chemical burns

Acid and chemical burns can be very damaging and require immediate medical attention at an A&E department. This is because they can continue to burn long after the acid or chemical has touched the skin. If possible, find out what chemical caused the burn and tell the healthcare professionals at A&E.

If you're helping someone else, put on appropriate protective clothing and then:

  • remove any contaminated clothing on the person
  • if the chemical is dry, brush it off their skin
  • use running water to remove any traces of the chemical from the burnt area

If you work in an area that uses battery acid, it may be appropriate to keep Calcium Gluconate in your first aid kit. Please make sure you check your Safety Data Sheet for Battery Acid (you can get this from the supplier) to find out if it is recommended.

Burn Treatment: Sunburn

Sunburn is probably they most common type of burn that most of us will experience at least once in our lifetime. Sunburn is usually preventable using by following the Slip Slop Slap recommendations but in case you do experience sunburn, we recommend the following:

  • As soon as you notice any signs of sunburn, such as hot, red and/or painful skin, move out of the direct sun, such as into the shade but preferably indoors
  • If possible take a cool bath or shower to cool down the burnt area of skin.
  • Apply a lotion such as Burncare burn gelto the affected area to moisturise, cool and soothe it. Don't use greasy or oily products. DO NOT use butter or oil as this will cause the burn to get worse.
  • If you’ve been sunburned, it is likely you are also a bit dehydrated so remember to drink plenty of water.
  • Sunburn can be serious and result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke so keep an eye out for signs such as your body temperature rising to 37 to 40C (98.6 to 104F) or above, dizziness, a rapid pulse or vomiting.

If you suspect heat exhaustion, go to a cool place ASAP, drink plenty of water and loosen clothing. If you aren’t feeling better within 30 minutes seek medical treatment ASAP otherwise you could develop heatstroke which can become a medical emergency.


Barb Hutchinson
Barb Hutchinson

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