Burns & Scalds

What's on your Mind? - May 2019
Types of burns

This month’s musings are all about burns and scalds – a burn being caused by dry heat and a scald by wet heat. These are amongst the most painful and serious injuries a person can have. It is estimated that on average of 110 children per day are seen in emergency departments with burn injuries – 46 as a result of a hot cup of tea or coffee spill.

Types of burns

There are three types of burns:

Superficial Burn – This burn causes the skin to look red, be tender and inflamed. Sunburn is a common cause of this burn, touching a hot iron is another.

Partial Thickness Burn – This burn causes the outer layer of the skin to be broken and can cause blistering, swelling, pain and rawness.

Full Thickness Burn – This burn causes all the layers of the skin to be damaged making the skin look pale, charred and waxy with fatty deposits. It can also cause nerve damage.

What do you do if someone burns themselves?

The important thing with a burn is to act quickly.

  • Remove the person from the area that is causing the burn i.e. dousing flames with water or smothering in a blanket. DO NOT GET YOURSELF IN DANGER.
  • Cool the burn with cool or lukewarm running water for at least 10 minutes and ideally for 20 minutes or more. Don’t use ice or cold water as the temperature difference is too big and don’t put the area in standing cool water as the water will heat up which won’t help the burn.
  • Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt area. (This would include a nappy on a baby if necessary).
  • If the burn is to the face or eyes try to stay as upright as possible for as long as possible.
  • After holding the burnt area under cool running water, put a burn gel dressing (if you have one) over the burnt area and cover the burnt area with cling film. You should aim to cover the burn rather than wrapping it around the limb.

What not to do

  • Don’t apply any creams, ointments or fat (i.e. butter) to the burnt areas.
  • Don’t burst any blister that forms as this is a big infection risk.
  • Don’t apply any form of sticky dressing.
  • Don’t remove any jewellery or clothing stuck to the burnt area.

When to go to hospital

  • If you have a superficial burn which is bigger than 5% of your body (think of one hand print as 1% of your body size) you should go to hospital.
  • If you have a partial thickness burn bigger than 1% of your body you should go to hospital.
  • If you have any type of full thickness burn you should go to hospital.
  • Go to hospital for any type of burn to the hands, feet, face or genitals that causes blisters.
  • Go to hospital for any chemical or electrical burns.

Remember a speedy response is the best response in this scenario so find your cool running water as soon as possible.

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