Burn Treatment Tips

                                                                     Burn Treatment Tips

Burns are caused by dry heat, corrosive substances and friction.  Burns can also be produced by extreme cold, and by radiation, including the sun’s rays. 

Burns carry a serious risk of infection, which increases according to the size and depth of the burn.  The body’s natural barrier, the skin, is destroyed by burning, leaving it exposed to germs.

Burns can be categorized as: 1. superficial burns, 2. partial-thickness burns, or 3. full thickness burns. 

1.      Superficial burns involve only the outer layer of the skin, and are characterised by redness, swelling and tenderness.  Typical examples are mild sunburn, or a scald produced by a splash of hot tea or coffee.  Superficial burns usually heal well if prompt first aid is given, and do not require medical treatment unless extensive.

2.      Partial-thickness burns damage a ‘partial thickness’ of the skin, and require medical treatment.  The skin looks raw, and blisters form.  These burns usually heal well, but can be serious, if extensive.  In adults, partial-thickness burns affecting more than 50% of the body’s surface can be fatal.  This percentage is less in children and the elderly.

3.      Full-thickness burns damage all layers of the skin.  Damage may extend beyond the skin to affect nerves, muscle and fat.  The skin may look pale, waxy, and sometimes charred.  Full-thickness burns of any size always require immediate medical attention, and usually require specialist treatment.

Some things to keep in mind when treating for a severe burn include:

1.      DO NOT overcool the individual; this may dangerously lower the body temperature.

2.      DO NOT remove anything sticking to the burn; this may cause further damage and cause infection.

3.      DO NOT touch or interfere with the injured area.

4.      DO NOT burst blisters.

5.      DO NOT apply lotions, ointment, or fat to the injury.

  1. Douse the burn with copious amounts of cold liquid.  Thorough cooling may take 10 minutes or more.
  2. While cooling the burns, check airway, breathing, and pulse, and be prepared to resuscitate.
  3. Gently remove any rings, watches, belts, shoes, or smouldering clothing from the injured area, before it starts to swell.  Carefully remove burned clothing unless it is sticking to the burn.
  4. Cover the injury with a sterile burns sheet or other suitable non-fluffy material, to protect from infection.  A clean plastic bag or kitchen film may be used.  Burns to the face should be cooled with water, not covered.
  5. Ensure that the emergency service is on its way. 

Minor burns and scalds are usually the result of domestic accidents.  Prompt first aid will generally enable them to heal naturally and well, but the advice of a medical practitioner should be sought if there is doubt as to the severity of the injury.

In treating for a mild burn:

1.      DO NOT use adhesive dressings.

2.      DO NOT break blisters, or interfere with the injured area.

3.      DO NOT apply lotions, ointments, creams, or fats to the injured area.

  1. Cool the injured part with copious amounts of cold water for about 10 minutes to stop the burning and relieve the pain.  If water is unavailable, any cold, harmless liquid such as milk or canned drinks will suffice.
  2. Gently remove any jewellery, watches, or constricting clothing from the injured area before it starts to swell.
  3. Cover the injury with a sterile dressing, or any clean, non-fluffy material to protect from infection.  A clean plastic bag or kitchen film may be used.

If you have any questions as to the severity of a burn, please call 911.


                         Mike Petullo CEM

                                                                        CMFPD Administrative Control Board