Burns – First aid care
One way to differentiate a minor burn from a serious burn is to determine initially the extent of damage to the body tissues. Burns are classified as first-degree, second-degree and third-degree.
This is a least serious burn in which only the outer layer of the skin is burned. A first-degree burn is distinguished by reddish skin while swelling and pain is often present. You can treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn unless it involves large areas of the feet, groin, face, buttock or a major joint since if these parts are affected, it would require emergency medical attention.
If the first layer of the skin as well as the second layer or dermis has been burned, it is categorized as a second-degree burn. This burn is characterized with the development of blisters, severe pain and swelling as well as reddish skin with splotchy appearance.
Steps when treating second-degree burns less than 3 inches in diameter
- Cool the affected part by holding it under cool running water for 10-15 minutes or once the pain subsides. You can immerse the burn in cool water or apply a cold compress.
- Protect the burn with a sterile gauze bandage slackly to inhibit pressure on the affected skin. It will also prevent air from the burn, protects the blistered skin as well as reducing pain.
- Use over-the-counter medications for pain such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
A second-degree burn that is less than 3 inches in diameter can be treated as a minor burn. In case the area burned is larger or involves the feet, face, hands, buttocks, groin or over a major joint, it should be treated as a major burn and immediate medical care should be provided.
Third-degree burns are serious and involve all layers of the skin resulting to permanent tissue damage. Muscles, fats and even the bones might be affected. The affected areas are charred black or appear white and dry. This type of burn requires immediate emergency help.
Steps to follow until the emergency unit arrives
- Avoid removing clothing that was burned but make sure that the victim is no longer in contact with burning materials or exposed to smoke or heat.
- Do not immerse large burns in cold water since it will lead to a drop in body temperature and the deterioration of the blood pressure and circulation.
- Check for signs of circulation. In case there is no breathing or signs of circulation, perform CPR.
- Raise the burned area above heart level if possible.
- Cover the burn by using a cool, moist and sterile bandage.
Always remember that burns are susceptible to tetanus. Doctors will recommend a tetanus shot every 10 years. In case your tetanus shot was given more than five years ago, your doctor can administer a tetanus booster shot.
For the third-degree burns, it is important to call for emergency assistance right away since this a severe type of burn.