Burns are common injuries in various situations, from everyday household accidents to workplace mishaps. They can range from minor discomfort to life-threatening emergencies, making it crucial to have a solid understanding of the types of first aid for burns you might need to know about.
This article will explore the main types offirst aid for burns,different types and degrees of burns, and provide a guide to their treatment. By familiarising ourselves with appropriate first aid techniques, we can effectively respond to burn injuries and alleviate pain while promoting healing.
Burns are classified into different types based on the source of burn. The most common types of burns are:
It occur when the skin comes into contact with hot objects, steam, flames, or scalding liquids. They are the most common type, generally ranging from mild to severe, depending on the temperature and duration of exposure.
Chemical Burns result from contact with corrosive substances such as acids, alkalis, or strong cleaning agents. These burns can be highly damaging and require immediate attention to prevent further injury.
Electrical Burns are caused by contact with electrical currents. These burns can be deceiving, as the damage might not appear on the skin's surface. However, internal injuries can be severe, so seeking medical help is crucial every time.
Friction Burns occur when a hard object rubs off some of your skin. It’s both an abrasion (scrape) and a heat burn. The most well known type of friction burn is a carpet burn and they are also common in motorcycle and bike accidents.
Radiation Burns are caused by exposure to a form of radiant heat/radiation such as the sun or X-rays.The most common radiation burn is sunburn
Cold Burns are caused by prolonged exposure to a very cold object or temperatures which usually cause the skin to freeze. Cold burns are also known as frostbite.
According to the New Zealand National Burn Centre, approximately 15,000 burn injuries occur each year in New Zealand, with around 400 requiring hospitalisation. Burn injuries are more common in males than females, and most injuries occur in the home.
Burns are further classified into degrees based on their severity.
Understanding the degrees of burns determine the appropriate first aidburn treatment. The degrees of burns are as follows:
These are superficial burns that affect only the skin's outermost layer, called the epidermis. First-degree burns typically result in redness, pain, and mild swelling. They usually heal within a week without leaving scars.
It involves the epidermis and the underlying layer of skin, called the dermis. These burns causeburn blisters, intense pain, swelling, and redness. They may take several weeks to heal and may leave scars.
These burns are severe but they usually don’t hurt because they damage the nerve endings and extend beyond the dermis into the deeper tissues. The skin may appear charred, white, or leathery. Third-degreeskin burns require immediate medical attention. They typically require advanced treatments such as skin grafting.
These burns are the deepest and most severe of burns and are potentially life-threatening because as well as destroying all skin layers they often extend into bones, muscles, and tendons.
Providing immediatefirst aid for burns is crucial to minimise damage, relieve pain, and promote healing. Here are the essential steps to follow:
Before administering first aid for burns, ensure the area is safe from further harm. Then remove the victim from the source of the burn and extinguish any flames if present. If the burn is due to chemicals, remove contaminated clothing as soon as possible after ensuring you are protected and flush the affected body parts with cool running water for at least 20 minutes.
For thermal burns, immediately cool the burn with cool (not cold) running water for at least 10 minutes. It helps to lower the skin temperature, reduce pain, and prevent the burn from spreading. Avoid ice or icy water, as extreme cold can further damage the skin. Do not use any creams, oils or greasy substances such as butter as these can cause the skin to continue to burn even after removing it from the heat source.
Use an emergency blanket to keep body temperature from escaping but take care not to rub it against the burnt area.
If there are no signs of severe injury, remove any constrictive items, such as rings or jewellery, near the burned area. It is important because burns cause swelling, and removing such items can prevent complications.
Once the burn has been cooled, cover it with a sterile, non-stick dressing or a clean, hygienic cloth to protect it from infection. Avoid using adhesive bandages directly on the burn; they can stick to the skin and cause further damage when removed.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen manage pain and reduce inflammation. Consult a healthcare professional if necessary and follow the recommended dosage.
Depending upon the severity of the burn, it may be necessary to seek medical attention. Consult a healthcare professional if the burn is deep, covers a large area, affects the face, hands, feet, or genitals, or if there are signs of infection like increased redness, swelling, or pus.
While immediate first aid for burns is crucial, some home remedies can relieve and aid healing. Here are some burn remedies that help, but you should keep in mind that these remedies are suitable for mild burns, such as first-degree burns, and should not be used for severe burns or in place of seeking professional medical attention.
Running cool (not cold) water over the burn for 10 to 15 minutes reduces pain, inflammation and prevents further damage. It also helps to stop the burning process and cool down the affected area.
Aloe vera gel, obtained from the aloe vera plant leaves, has soothing properties that relieve burns. Apply a layer of organic aloe vera gel directly to the burn for its cooling and moisturising effects.
Honey has natural antibacterial properties and can be applied topically to the burn. It forms a protective barrier, promotes healing, and reduces the risk of infection. Use raw, organic honey and gently apply a thin layer to the burn.
Applying a cold compress, like a clean cloth soaked in cold water or wrapped around ice, can help reduce pain and swelling associated with burns. Never apply ice directly to the burnt skin.
Knowing how to provide immediate first aid for burns is essential in minimising damage, relieving pain, and promoting healing. Individuals can offer effective assistance in emergencies by understanding the types and degrees of burns and the appropriate treatment.
Remember, seeking professional health care is crucial for severe burns to ensure proper treatment and prevent complications.