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Burn treatment - How acting fast will limit the damage

A burn or a scald are one of the UK's most common injuries that require emergency treatment. Correct first aid must be administered as soon as possible. The faster a burn is cooled, the lower the risk there will be of scarring and damage to the skin.

Burns are generally caused by dry heat; from a fire, an oven or even the sun. Whereas a scald is a wet heat, which can be caused by steam from a kettle or a hot liquid. Both can be very painful and first aid attention may be required immediately. If someone has a severe burn or scald they will most likely suffer from shock due to the fluid loss. They will then need urgent hospital treatment.

How do you treat a burn?

An individual who has been burnt will most likely be in great pain. Stay calm and administer first aid quickly and correctly. Doing the wrong thing in this situation could cause even more pain.

  • Remove the individual from the source: take them away from the cause without putting yourself at risk. This will of course prevent the burning from getting any worse.
  • Cool the burn: if possible, place the burnt area under a running tap for at least 10 minutes. Make sure the water is cool or lukewarm, if it is too cold it may damage the tissue. If you don't have access to running water, then use a burn dressing and if badly burnt, go to hospital immediately. Never use ice, ice water or any unknown creams or lotions.
  • If you have Burnshield Hydrogel or dressings available, these are ideal to both cool the burn and ease the pain. The Burnshield range are sterile, non-toxic and non-irritant treatments that minimise skin damage and prevent burns from progressing into deeper layers of the skin.
  • Remove any loose clothing and jewellery around the area, making sure to be gentle. This is done because the damaged area may begin to swell, so you want to get rid of any restricting items. However, if the items are stuck to the burn, leave these alone!
  • Assess the burn (see below), if it is serious call 999 or 112 for emergency assistance.
  • Dress the area with a sterile burns dressing that will not stick to the wound, if you have cling film this is a perfect option - remember to discard the first two turns of the roll. Don't wrap the area tightly, as it will probably continue to swell and this will become painful.
  • Sit the individual upright and continue to monitor their progress.

Burn treatment

How severe is the burn - Should you go to the hospital?

It may be completely obvious at the scene how severe the burn or scald is due to the situation or the damage

Cause - There are many different potential causes of burns, and these are categorised as; dry heat, wet heat (scald), radiation (sunburn), chemical and electricity. The first three will depend on severity, however, any chemical or electrical burn will require hospital treatment. The chemicals could be poisonous and the electricity could leave deeper internal burns.

Size - The size of the burn will give you an indication of the severity. For an adult, any burn that is larger in surface than the individual's palm (1% body area) needs to be assessed by a professional at hospital. Medical advice should be taken for a child no matter the size.

Age of Individual - Due to the delicateness of the skin, any burn to a child or the elderly needs to be given medical attention.

Location - If the burn involves the face, nose, mouth or neck medical attention will be needed, as there may be a risk of an inhalation injury. Inflammation and swelling could lead to an obstruction to the airway and cause breathing problems. Damage to the hands, feet, genitals or burns that go completely around a limb will also need hospital treatment.

What if you forget the rules?

It may be vital to give immediate treatment to a burn, but if at any point during this you become unsure of what to do, then you must seek medical advice as there is always the possibility the situation could escalate.

Take the steps you think are appropriate and then call for help, it is always best to be cautious than to make decisions that you are not sure of. It is always worth having a first aid kit which includes burn care products, we stock a wide range of Burnshield products and burn care kits that are ideal for the home and workplace.