Whether it’s minor or major, a burn injury should be cooled with running water immediately after it occurs, for at least 15 minutes. If running water is not available, or if the burn is very large, you can apply a clean, cool, wet cloth to the affected area. Cooling it in this way will minimise damage to the tissue and reduce the pain.
Never cool a burn injury with ice or iced water, because these are likely to aggravate it.
Remove any tight and constricting items like a watch, ring and belt from the burnt area before it begins to swell. However, do not remove anything that is stuck to the skin.
These dos and don’ts can help in the successful treatment of burns which are commonly caused by thermal sources such as fire, hot objects, hot liquids, and steam but can also be due to electricity, radiation, and certain chemicals.
Burns, which are classified according to how deeply the skin is affected, are of three main types:
First-degree burns are mild and affect the epidermis or outer layer of the skin.
Second-degree burns affect the epidermis as well as the dermis layer beneath it.
Third-degree burns go through the epidermis and dermis and affect deeper tissues.
What are the symptoms of burn injuries?
Symptoms vary depending on the type of burn injury, with first-degree burns causing reddening of the skin and slight pain, second-degree burns resulting in swelling and blisters as well, and severe burns producing white skin or blackened/charred skin that may become numb because of damaged nerves.
In the case of severe burns, your blood pressure may drop suddenly and you may go into shock, experiencing symptoms such as:
Pale, cold skin
Bluish lips and fingernails
Confusion and lack of alertness
How are burn injuries treated?
Minor burns don’t usually require medical attention and can be treated at home. Once you have cooled the burn, you can apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it loosely with a sterile gauze bandage. This prevents infection. You can take a painkiller to relieve any pain.
Major burns require immediate emergency medical attention. Until help is available, cool the burnt area and try to keep it elevated to reduce the swelling. Treatment for major burns includes surgical removal of burnt tissue and skin grafting in hospital.
If appropriate long-term treatment is not provided, major burn injuries can develop infection and severe scarring, and lead to complications associated with the heart, lungs and other organs.
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