We cannot deny the fact that fire has made a great impact in the lives of men – it has helped us keep warm on cold days, cook food, boil water for safe drinking and even burn down unnecessary materials. But fire can also bring us harm especially when it is used in the wrong way. Fire accidents are not uncommon and it has been known to take away homes and lives as well. Having our skin contact with fire can also cause burns and may have a gruesome effects.
It is not only fire though that causes burn. Excessive exposure to sunlight can cause sun burns (which can be avoided by the use of body lotions equipped with SPF or sun protection factor). There are several chemicals, liquid or powdered, that may cause severe burns as well. On top of that, contact with hot surfaces may cause painful burns.
Burns are graded according to the layers of the skin that it affects. A first degree burn is noted to be painful, red and the Epidermis (which is the first layer of the skin) is involved. Second degree burns on the other hand is red, with blisters and is very painful. This burn involves the first layer (epidermis) and the second layer of the skin (dermis). Third degree burns extends through the whole layer of the skin and is now painless. The wound is leathery and white. Fourth degree burns, the most detrimental of them all involves the underlying fats, muscles and bones and is black in colour. Similarly, the fourth degree burns are painless.
Burns can also be classified according to their sources. Thermal burns are those acquired by contact with fire or hot/boiling liquid. Scalding (a type of thermal burns) is burning of the skin by way of contact with hot water, oil, or steam. Scalding is common in children under 5. Chemical burns on the other hand are acquired from direct contact to corrosive chemicals such as strong acids or bases. Some of these chemicals come in powdered form and may cause burn as well given contact with the skin.
Next, Electrical Burns are injuries related to different levels of electrical voltages. Most commonly, electric outlets are the sources of these burns, but a hit from a thunder can also cause severe and life threatening injuries as well. Finally, Radiation can also cause burns via exposure to too much ultraviolet lights (like tanning and even the natural source, sun).
First Aid for Burns
Generally, a few steps may be applicable for burns. They can be by classification: minor burns (1st and 2nd degree) or major burns (3rd and 4th degree). Caution should also be taken for some special type of burns like chemical powders and electrical burns.
- Cool the burn by placing it under cold running water (low pressure) for about 10 – 15 minutes. This will help avoid future swelling and give temporary relief from pain
- Make sure to cover the burn with a sterile gauze or cloth to avoid infection.
- A medication for pain can be helpful if pain exist. A single dose (at least 8 hours interval) of Ibuprofen or Mefenamic acid will do the job
- DO NOT use ice as a compress, or do not immerse burned area on an ice cold water. This may damage the sensation of the area of the wound and may cause further damage.
- DO NOT apply toothpaste over the wound. A fallacy is that toothpaste can relieve pain. On the other hand, it can cause further burn.
- If blisters are seen, do not burst them. You will expose the patient to more bacteria.
- If burn does not heal soon or if there are other signs of infection (like fever or nasty discharges from the burnt wound), consult your doctor.
- If burn involves clothing over the body, do not remove the cloth. This might cause peeling of the patient’s skin
- Do not immerse the burn on cold water or any water for that matter for the patient’s temperature may drop and this may cause further problems.
- Cover the wound with sterile dressing
- As much as possible, elevate the burned area
- Check for patient’s breathing and pulse. If these are absent, perform CPR and have someone call for help (emergency) immediately.
- If flames are present, smother it using a thick blanket or water. Do not use any other liquid because they may create bigger flames. If the patient is panicking and running, ask him to stop, drop to the ground and roll over. This shall put off the flame. Remember, running can’t help as oxygen fosters combustion.
- For electrical burns, make sure that contact to the patient is ONLY done after source of electricity has been taken away from the area of concern. Remember, we don’t want another patient to look after. Do the necessary steps for treatment of burns.
- For chemical burns, do not run them in water. Most chemicals react wildly to water and may further aggravate burn. If the chemical is a liquid, apply a clean slightly damp cloth. For powdered chemicals, brush the chemical off from the patient. Remember to avoid all contact with the chemicals themselves.
So there you have it! You are now ready to treat burns when you see one.