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First Aid for Burns: Proper Response & Treatment

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Burns or a Burn is a type of trauma caused by contact with a heat source or exposure to radiation, electricity, or certain chemicals. The majority of Burns occur as a result of direct contact with flame, hot liquids or solids, or steam. The extent of a Burn depends on how much of the body has been exposed, the temperature of the heat source and the length of time the body was exposed.

Burns or scalds can range from mild to severe and may require medical attention. Treatment of Burns may include medications, creams or ointments, special gowns, or surgery. It is imperative to seek medical attention when a Burn occurs in order to reduce the risk of infection and to reduce the possibility of long-term damage. Read ahead for an overview of Burns, including first aid for Burns




Symptoms of Burns

Here are some common symptoms of Burns.

  • Red, painful, or swollen skin

  • Blisters

  • Peeling skin

  • White or charred skin

  • Numbness or a tingling sensation

  • Hypersensitivity of skin

  • Loss of hair in the affected area

  • Sweating

  • A feeling of heat or cold around the affected area

  • Shock or extreme weakness

  • Rapid breathing

  • Anxiety or restlessness

Causes and types of Burns

Listed below are some of the common factors that cause Burns.

  1. Thermal Burns: These are the most common types of Burns caused by extremes of hot and cold temperatures, such as steam, hot liquids, and fire.

  2. Electrical Burns: These Burns occur when someone comes into contact with an electrical source, such as a power line or an appliance.

  3. Chemical Burns: These are caused by contact with corrosive chemicals, such as acids, alkalis, and solvents.

  4. Radiation Burns: These types of Burns are the result of exposure to ultraviolet, infrared, or microwave radiation. They are often seen in workers in the nuclear power industry and can cause severe skin damage.

  5. Friction Burns: These are caused by friction, such as when a person slides across a rough surface or wears clothing that is too tight and rubs against the skin.

  6. SunBurns: These occur when skin is exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays, and can range from mild to severe.

  7. Gas Burns: These are caused by flames or contact with certain gases, such as methane or propane that are both highly flammable.

Different degrees of Burns

Burns are a common and serious medical condition that can have life-altering consequences. They are classified according to the extent and severity of the injury.

  • Superficial or First-degree Burns are the most minor and are usually limited to the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin.

  • Second-degree Burns involve the papillary dermis, the deepest layer of skin, and cause blistering and scarring.

  • Third-degree Burns penetrate through all layers of skin and can affect underlying tissue and organs.

  • Fourth-degree Burns are the most serious, as they penetrate the bone and can require extensive treatment, including skin grafts and physical therapy.

First aid for Burns

You can treat minor Burns at home by following this step-by-step guide.

  • The first step is to immediately run cool (not cold) water over the Burn, or apply a clean, cold, wet cloth to the area, for at least 10 minutes.

  • Remove any clothing or jewellery near the affected area, but do not remove anything that is stuck to the skin.

  • Apply a sterile, non-adhesive bandage to the area or, if available, a special Burn dressing.

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

  • Cover the Burn with a sterile gauze bandage, making sure there are no wrinkles in the fabric. Change the dressing daily and keep the area clean.

  • If blisters form, leave them alone and call a doctor. Don't break the blisters.

  • Avoid putting any ointments, oils, butter, or other home remedies on the Burn. These things can cause infection.

  • Seek medical attention if the Burn covers an area larger than 3 inches in diameter or is on the face, fingers, palms, feet, around genitals or if you have signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, or swelling.

Mistakes you should never make while taking care of a Burn

Following is the rundown of the common mistakes people make during in-home care for Burns.

  • Using lotions, creams, oils, and greasy substances on the injured area.

  • Exposing the Burn to direct sunlight.

  • Putting ice or ice packs directly on the injured area.

  • Breaking any blisters that may form on the injured area.

  • Using any adhesive bandages, dressings, or wraps that could cause further irritation to the wounded area.

  • Scrubbing or rubbing the injured area.

  • Pulling or stretching the injured area.

  • Using any chemical agents such as iodine, hydrogen peroxide, or sterilisers on the wound.

  • Pressing or massaging the Burn.

  • Failing to use sterile bandages, dressings, and wraps.

  • Using any antiseptic solutions that are not specifically approved for the Burn.

  • Failing to seek immediate medical attention if the wound worsens or shows signs of infection.

How to prevent Burns

Mentioned below are some of the steps you can take to prevent Burns.

  • Avoid direct contact with heated surfaces, such as open flames, heated ovens and hot pans.

  • Wear heat-resistant gloves and clothing when working near heat sources.

  • Keep flammables and loose clothing away from heat sources.

  • Set the stove to the lowest temperature necessary and avoid leaving pots unattended.

  • Use oven mitts or potholders when handling hot items.

  • Supervise young children when they are in the kitchen.

  • Test the temperature of liquids and bath water to ensure they are not too hot.

  • Wear sunscreen to protect against sunburns.

Frequently asked questions



Which ointment is best for Burns?

The best ointment for Burns is a topical antibiotic ointment, such as silver sulfadiazine, mafenide acetate, or bacitracin. To prevent infection and promote healing, it may also be recommended to use an over-the-counter Burn cream that contains lidocaine for pain relief.

Should I cover a Burn or let it breathe?

If the Burn is small and superficial, it is best to let it breathe. Applying a topical antibiotic ointment can also help to prevent infection and promote healing. For larger second-degree or third-degree Burns, it is best to keep them covered with a sterile gauze or bandage.

How long does Burn-pain last?

Burn-pain can last for several days or weeks, depending on the severity of the Burn. There are pain medications available to help with Burn-pain. So it is crucial to talk to a doctor if the pain is too severe.

What does a Scalding Burn look like?

A Scalding Burn looks like a red, swollen, and painful area on the skin that is caused by hot liquid or steam. It may also appear watery or blistery. It is important to seek medical attention if a Scalding Burn covers a large area of the body, is deeper than the first layer of skin, or if the person experiences signs of shock or infection.

When to seek medical attention?

If you have been burned, you should immediately seek a doctor’s help if the wound is more than 1⁄2 inch deep, involves large areas of skin, or if the burned area has an ashy, dry, or leathery appearance. 

How much time does it take to recover from Burns?

The time it takes to recover from Burns depends on the severity of the Burn. Also, the recovery process can be complicated by infections. That is why it is always better to seek medical attention during the healing process.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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