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Air Force Academy Fire & Emergency Services
10th CES/CEF
6202 Pine Drive Suite 100
USAFA, CO 80840

Ph: 719-333-2051
DSN: 333-2051

Fire and Emergency Services

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.
Causes of Fire

Fires are the second leading cause of accidental death around the home, killing more than 4,000 people each year in this country. Every room in the house has its own greatest risk of fire. The following examples will aid you in preventing fires:

The Kitchen - a prime area for electrical fires...
  • Keep appliances clean and unplugged when not in use.
  • Make sure all appliances carry the label of a testing agency (UL or equivalent).
  • Never throw water on electrical appliances that are still plugged in, this could cause electrical shock.
  • Cooking fires are another possibility, small grease fires can be smothered by placing a lid on the pan and turning off the burner. Do not try to move the pan, it will eventually cool down right on the stove. In the event of an oven fire, turn off the power and keep the door shut.
Bedrooms - these rooms are often overlooked...
  • The potential for overloaded electrical outlets is great in this room.
  • People who smoke in bed run the risk of falling asleep with a lit cigarette.
  • Since most home fires occur at night, smoke detectors should be placed in hallways leading to bedrooms, where they can alert sleeping family members.
The best way to combat fires is to stop them before they start. A good look around the house with these thoughts in mind will go a long way in maintaining a fire safe home!
Attics & Basements - "popular catchalls"...
  • Homeowners and occupants should avoid creating a firetrap in these areas.
  • Keep gasoline and other flammable liquids in metal containers and store outside.
  • Good housekeeping will avert possible troubles, too.
  • Clear out boxes of old clothes, papers and rags that could invite fire and block escape paths.
  • Watch out for worn cords, blown fuses and other signs of electrical trouble.
Heating Devices & Fireplaces - essential, but dangerous...
  • Flying embers can ignite a blaze, so always place a screen in front of the fireplace.
  • Have chimneys cleaned and inspected. Ensure all the necessary repairs are made to fill cracks, replace loose bricks, old flue caps and weak flue pipes.
  • Wood stoves should also be checked to ensure proper installation.
  • Maintaining adequate clearance around stoves and space heaters will keep them from coming into contact with drapes, curtains, furniture, and other flammable materials.
To keep warm and safe during the heating season, keep these hot tips and checklist in mind for some practical fire safety advice.

Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires.

What most people don't realize is that heating equipment is the biggest fire culprit December through February, and the third leading cause of fire deaths in American homes.

The heating equipment itself is not our the chief concern; rather, human error is involved in nearly all home heating fires in the U.S. -- fires that are preventable. The correct installation, maintenance, fueling and operation of portable and space heaters, as well as safely arranging household items around them, greatly reduces your risk of experiencing a home heating fire. Common mistakes that too often turn deadly include failing to clean chimneys; placing portable or other space heaters too close to furniture, bedding, or clothing; and improper fueling and venting of fueled heating devices.

Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires. The estimated 68,400 home heating fires in 1995 (the latest year for which data is available) killed 429 people, and caused just more than 1,800 civilian injuries and more than a half billion dollars in property damage.
Juvenile Fire Starters

It starts, almost always, with just a match and a piece of paper; nothing complicated or intricate.

The flame from the match eats its way across to the paper. The paper begins to crackle and curl. It gives off heat, smoke, and light. The glow lights the face of the fire starter. It is an intelligent face; a young face; a child's face. One fire out of four is definitely set by someone, the evidence that survives indicates that 40 to 70 percent of those deliberately set fires are set by children: our children.

The numbers are numbing: America has the highest arson rate in the world. It is estimated that property losses from arson will exceed $1.5 billion this year. Fire is the leading cause of property damage loss, according to the National School Safety Center. Of that fire total, $90 million is known arson, almost all of it the result of fires started by children.

Arson is the leading crime of violence committed by children in the United States. More than half off all arsonists arrested in the past 10 years have been under 18; nearly a quarter of those under 10. What's more, those who are responding to the juvenile firesetting problem say the average young perpetrator is between 5 and 9, far younger than the FBI's criminal statistics indicate.

Children, we're beginning to realize, set fires for predictable reasons: curiosity, frustration, mischief, and sometimes, malice. Two-thirds of all young fire setters don't really know what they're doing, although they usually have a reason for their actions. For a child between two and seven, fire play is a natural, though dangerous, part of growing up and exploring the world around them, but that doesn't make those children criminals.
Children need to be taught about fire as a safety issue, they need to understand when to light fires. With very young children ages two to four, child-proofing the home is still a proper strategy-keeping the matches and lighters out of reach and keeping the children a ways form potential fire sources. Talking to children is also important. As is true with most child-development problems, once children learn the rules, most outgrow fire play and learn to take a responsible interest in fire prevention and safety.

Parents instinctively equate fire setting with a criminal act, since fire departments and court systems have always presented it in this manner. There needs to be a more comfortable feeling on the part of parents. Every fire set by a child should not be considered arson. Certainly there are some that are intentional and malicious, which is the traditional definition of arson, but just because you have a child who plays with matches doesn't criminal activity has taken place.

It is all of our responsibility to inform and educate the children to the problems associated with fire. Mothers, fathers, teachers, and professional firefighters alike, have the responsibility to teach the children. Do your part to help the children in your life understand what fire is, how it can help and most of all how it can hurt!
Homeowner Tips

Here are 10 fire safety tips that will help keep you and your family safe from fire, please read through them and discuss them with your family. Call or email your local fire department if you ever have any questions.

Install and test smoke detectors
Working smoke detectors can alert you to a fire in your home in time for you to escape, even if you are sleeping. Install smoke detectors near each sleeping area, it is best if you install one inside your sleeping area as well.

Test detectors every month (always follow the manufacturer's directions) and replace batteries once a year, or whenever a detector "chirps" to signal low battery power. Never "borrow" a smoke detector's battery for another use - a disabled detector can't save your life. Replace detectors that are more than 10 years old.

Plan Your Escape From Fire
If a fire breaks out in your home, you have to get out fast. Prepare for a fire emergency by sitting down with your family and agreeing on an escape plan. Be sure that everyone knows at least two ways out - including doors and windows - from every room. (If you live in an apartment building, do not include elevators in your escape plan.) Decide on a meeting place outside where everyone will meet after they escape. Have your entire household practice your escape plan at least twice a year.

Keep An Eye On Smokers
Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in North America. Smoking in bed or when you are drowsy could be deadly. Provide smokers with large, deep non-tip ashtrays and soak butts with water before discarding them. Before going to bed or leaving home after someone has been smoking, check under and around cushions and upholstered furniture for smoldering cigarettes.

Cook Carefully
Never leave cooking unattended. Keep cooking areas clear of combustibles and wear clothes with short, rolled-up or tight-fitting sleeves when you cook. Turn pot handles inward on the stove where you can't bump them and children can't grab them. Enforce a "Kid-Free Zone" three feet (one meter) around your kitchen stove. If grease catches fire in a pan, slide a lid over the pan to smother the flames and turn off the heat. Leave the lid on until cool.
Give Space Heaters Space
Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least three feet (one meter) from anything that can burn. Keep children and pets away from heaters, and never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to bed.
Remember: Matches And Lighters Are Tools, Not Toys

In a child's hand, matches and lighters can be deadly. Use only child-resistant lighters and store all matches and lighters up high, where small children can't see or reach them, preferably in a locked cabinet. Teach your children that matches and lighters are tools, not toys, and should be used only by adults or with adult supervision. Teach young children to tell a grown-up if they find matches or lighters; older children should bring matches or lighters to an adult immediately.

Cool A Burn
Run cool water over a burn for 10 to 15 minutes. Never put butter or any grease on a burn. If the burned skin blisters or is charred, see a doctor immediately. Never use ice.

Use Electricity Safely
If an electrical appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately, then have it serviced before using it again. Replace any electrical cord that is cracked or frayed. Don't overload extension cords or run them under rugs. Don't tamper with your fuse box or use improper-size fuses.

Crawl Low Under Smoke
During a fire, smoke and poisonous gases rise with the heat. The air is cleaner and cooler near the floor. If you encounter smoke while you are escaping from a fire, use an alternate escape route.

Stop, Drop And Roll
If your clothes catch fire, don't run. Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands, and roll over and over to smother the flames.

Using prevention techniques will greatly improve your chances of never having to escape from a fire. Don't be fooled though, you never know when or where a fire will break out--always be ready!