Fire safety: First aid dos and don'ts for burn injuries

JUNE MOH and AUDREY VIJAINDREN

KUALA LUMPUR: MOST parents are clueless when it comes to providing first aid to their children who suffer scalds and burns at home.

The study by Safe Kids Malaysia Universiti Putra Malaysia found that two out of five parents said they would look for a household remedy to treat a scald or burn injury.

Surprisingly, 83 per cent of the parents said they would reach out for toothpaste to apply on the affected skin.

This was not advisable and could increase the risk of infection and scar, said Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim.

“Using toothpaste will not minimise injury from burning and scalding. In fact, it will make it worse,” he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), in its “World Report on Child Injury Prevention”, wants the immediate application of “cool (not ice cold) water” to burns to be promoted as an effective first-aid treatment.

“There are many studies assessing the first aid of burns in high-income countries, and from these, examples of good practices, such as to ‘cool the burn’, are drawn,” it said.

“Cooling the burn surface is one of the oldest methods of treatment. However, only a handful of studies have examined burn interventions in low- and middle-income countries.”

The following are first aid dos and don’ts, according to WHO.


DOS:

Stop the burning process by removing clothing and irrigating the burns;

Extinguish flames by allowing the patient to roll on the ground, or by applying a blanket, or by using water or other fire-extinguishing liquids;

Use cool running water to reduce the temperature of the burn;

In chemical burns, remove or dilute the chemical agent by irrigating with large volumes of water; and,

Wrap the patient in a clean cloth or sheet and transport to the nearest appropriate facility for medical care.


DON’TS:

Do not start first aid before ensuring your own safety (switch off electrical current, wear gloves for chemicals, etc.);

Do not apply paste, oil, haldi (turmeric powder) or raw cotton to the burn;

Do not apply ice because it deepens the injury;

Avoid prolonged cooling with water because it will lead to hypothermia;

Do not open blisters until topical antimicrobials can be applied, such as by a healthcare provider;

Do not apply any material directly to the wound as it might become infected; and,

Avoid application of topical medication until the patient has been placed under appropriate medical care.