Burn Injuries and Their treatment
We are all at risk for accidental burns, no matter what our age. Burns can be caused by hot liquids, flames, chemicals or electrical sources. This is one medical problem where the proverb "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is very apt. The best burn care is prevention. Despite the best preventive measures, accidental burns may still happen. Burns are classified by the severity of the injury, in particular, how deep the injury is. The Burn Classifications are...
First degree burns
are the least serious type of burn. It involves only the top surface of the skin. The burned area will be red, and sore to the touch, but there is no blister formation. It looks like a sunburn. It will heal in 2-5 days with not scarring, but may cause some local discoloration for a time. (for sunburn treatment...)
Second degree burns
involve the surface of the skin and the layer right below it. The skin will look red, have blisters which may be intact or broken and it will be painful to the touch. They usually heal within 5-21 days and may cause some mild scarring.
Third degree burns
are the most extensive and serious type of burn. It involves all the layers of the skin and may extend into deeper tissues as well. The burned area may appear blackened, white, mahogany or tan. There is no sensation of pain. Third degree burns will leave extensive scarring. Small areas will heal in several weeks, but larger areas need to have skin grafting to improve healing, limit scarring and to preserve as much function as possible.
Treatment for Thermal Burns
(Caused by hot fluids, hot surfaces or fire).
Stop the burning
. Remove the person from the source of heat. The rule is "Stop, Drop and Roll" for anyone whose hair or clothing is on fire. A blanket or rug may be used to smother the flames. Do not use your hands.
Cool the area
. Remove any non-sticking clothes. Apply cool compresses to the burned areas or place the burn under cool running water. Do not use refrigerated fluids or ice to cool the skin. If the person has sustained extensive burns over much of the body, do not attempt to cool them-doing so may cause hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature.
Check to make sure the person can breathe. Stop any bleeding.
Remove any rings, bracelets or other objects before swelling occurs.
Cover the burned area with a sterile pad or a clean sheet.
If the burn is extensive, try to maintain body temperature by covering the person with a clean sheet and a blanket.
Seek medical care.
Remember - Call your doctor
, even if you think it's only a minor burn. Burns may actually be a lot more serious than they appear. This is particularly true of the very young and very old.
Do not apply any salves or ointments to a burn unless specifically instructed to do so by your doctor.
Any burn of the face, hands, feet or genitals needs prompt medical attention.
If a thermal burn is small and is a first or second degree burn, a single standard dose of ibuprofen given within 6 hours of the injury will help to decrease inflammation, help to limit the extent of the injury and provide pain control. Call your health care provider about any burn, and if the burn is minor and managed at home, ask if they recommend the use of ibuprofen. Do not give ibuprofen if the burn is third degree or covers a large area--seek medical care as soon as possible.
Do not apply any salves or ointments to a burn unless specifically instructed to do so by your doctor. Ointments hold in heat and may increase the extent of the injury or complicate the cleaning and dressing of the burn.
All circumferential burns (burns that go completely around a finger, extremity or the body) need immediate medical care. Swelling that occurs may cut off circulation to the extremity or compromise breathing if the burn encircles the torso.
Monitor breathing continuously until medical care is obtained if there is a burn circling the chest. Anyone with a burn needs to be up to date on their tetanus immunizations. If it has been more than 5 years since the last tetanus shot, or if the initial immunization series is incomplete or unknown, a tetanus immunization should be given.
Tar burns are the one exception to the "no ice to burns" rule. Do apply ice to skin covered with tar. Mineral oil may be helpful in removing tar stuck to the skin.
If you receive medical care for your burn, the burn may be dressed with a white prescription salve called Silvadene®. It is a silver compound and when it comes in contact with air for a while it will turn black. If no one has warned you about this natural oxidation (tarnishing) reaction of the Silvadene® it can be rather scary to see. It looks like the wound has turned black.
Whether or not your child received medical care for her burn, call your doctor's office any time that you see drainage that looks like, if there is increasing redness, swelling or pain in the adjacent area or if a fever develops. Any of these signs could signal an infection. And unfortunately an infection in a minor burn may soon result in as much damage as a third degree burn.