Burns and scalds are damage to the skin usually caused by heat. Both are treated in the same way. A burn is caused by dry heat – by an iron or fire, for example. A scald is caused by something wet, such as hot water or steam.

Burns Categorisation

First-degree burns affect only the outer skin layer. The skin is red, slightly swollen and painful to touch. Sunburn usually falls into this category

Second-degree burns go into the second skin layer and appear as blisters on red, splotchy skin

Third-degree burns involve all layers of the skin – even underlying tissue. These serious burns are often painless due to nerve destruction. They appear as charred black or dry and white areas.

Treating Burns

What NOT to do

  • Put ice, butter, grease, ointments, creams or oils on a burn
  • Peel of any clothes, or break any blisters
  • Burst any blisters
  • Use fluffy materials – example: cotton wool, which will stick to the burned area

Patient Care – Major Burns

  1. Help the patient lie down ensuring the burnt area does not come into contact with the ground;
  2. Douse the burnt area with cool liquid for at least 20 minutes;
  3. Carefully remove clothing from around the burnt area and remove any constricting items such as watches, belts etc. before swelling begins;
  4. Cover burns with a sterile dressing – Cling film applied lengthways works great;
  5. For burns to the airway, loosen clothing around the neck, offer ice or small sips of cold water;
  6. Continue to monitor the patients’s medical status using the Cycle of Care until Emergency Services arrives;
  7. Monitor and record vital signs whilst managing the patient for shock

Patient Care – Minor Burns (first degree and small second-degree)

  1. Flush or soak the burn in cool water for at least 20 minutes and where possible, remove any jewellery, watches, belts or constricting items from the injured area before it begins to swell
  2. Cover with cling film, a burns dressing or if the burn is on a hand or inserted into a sterile plastic bag.
  3. Never rush to dress a burn as the most important treatment is to cool the burn under cool running water.
  4. Check burn daily for signs of infection – redness, tenderness or presence of pus (yellowish or greenish fluid at wound site)
  5. Have all burns assessed by a medical professional.

Rutland First Aid Training provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. Rutland First Aid Training is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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