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What to do in case of burns and scalds ?

Immediate first-aid provided to a victim of burns and scalds can lessen the damage to a great extent. Burns and scalds should be cooled immediately, so the skin and flesh stop burning. This guide provides tips on first-aid that need to be given to burn victims.

Burns can be caused when the body comes in contact with a heat source. In normal households, this source can be a hot metal, electricity or a corrosive chemical. Radiation and friction also cause burns. Scalds, on the other hand, are caused by hot fluids or steam.

The severity of the burn or scald cannot be determined by the amount of discomfort or pain. Partial-thickness, also known as superficial (first degree) burns, involve only the skin have a propensity to be more agonizing as compared to full-thickness (second degree) burns, wherein the damage is caused to the underlying tissues and nerve endings.

Immediate first-aid for burns and scalds

  • Cool the burn : Burns and scalds must be cooled immediately with cool, clean running water. In an emergency, any cold, non-inflammable fluid can be used. Continue with this procedure for at least 10 minutes. Do not apply any ointment, lotion or oil to a scald or a burn.
  • Remove obstructions : Remove from the victim's person anything that might become an obstruction in case of swelling. This includes pieces of jewellery such as rings, bracelets, watch or any other piece of jewellery the victim might be wearing close to the burned area. Remove shoes and socks, belt, tie or anything that could act as an impediment. This precaution is a must, to prevent complications, in case of swelling.
  • Cover the burn : Use a sterile, non-stick dressing to cover the burn, as this reduces the risk of an infection
  • Do not probe the burnt area : Do not try to dislodge pieces of debris or clothing that might be stuck to the burnt skin. This could cause damage to the area and make it more prone to infection. Let a medical professional take care of that. However, you can cut the clothes around the burnt flesh and cover it with a sterile dressing. In case a sterile dressing is not accessible then use a clean plastic cling film or a plastic bag or any other clean non-fuzzy material.
  • Calm & relax the victim : If the burns are severe you will need to get the victim to a hospital. Ensure that the victim is comfortable as you wait for an ambulance or transport them on their own. Monitor the breathing and pulse and keep an eye on the victim going into shock.
  • No food or drink : Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink if the injury is severe. You need to take this precaution in case the victim has to be administered anesthesia at the hospital.

What to watch out for ?

Symptoms of shock : A person is said to go into shock when their circulatory system fails. It cuts the blood supply to the vital organs, putting the person in grave danger.

Look out for the following symptoms to identify shock –

  • The skin turning clammy, pale and cold
  • Feeling of faint, weak and giddy
  • Feeling nauseous and vomiting
  • Quick and shallow breathing pattern
  • Weak and often fast pulse
  • Sighing or yawning

Pain: Check for pain. The victim could either be in excruciating pain or feel none.
Condition of skin: The skin could be red or black and blistered. It could be oozing a clear fluid.

Treatment of scalds and burns

  • Chemical burn : Remove the victim away from the site, to a safer more secure place. Flush the burnt skin with cool, fresh water, for a minimum 20 minutes. In the meantime, call for an ambulance and observe the victim's breathing – be equipped to give artificial respiration to the victim, if necessary. Gently remove the contaminated clothes off the victim. Household chemicals and insecticides (including acids) can be extremely lethal if absorbed through the skin in addition to triggering chemical burns. So watch out for signs of poisoning, for example, queasiness, headache or giddiness. Let the hospital know particulars of the chemical involved in the injury.
  • Electrical burn : Electricity can cause severe burns, including a lightning strike. In fact, a lightning strike can cause burns at the point where the current enters and where it exists. An electric burn victim is at a high risk of suffering from a cardiac arrest. As someone who steps in to help a victim of an electric burn, ensure that the power source is turned off before you approach the victim. Also, call for an ambulance or make arrangements to shift the victim to a hospital. In the intervening time, cool the burn injuries. If the victim suffers a cardiac arrest, provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Burns to the airwayBurns that affect the face can be very dangerous. The damage also includes inhalation of smoke from a fire – inhalation of smoke can cause extensive damage in the nasal and oral cavities besides damage to the lungs. The victim can suffer from excruciating pain along with widespread inflammation in the lining of the oral cavity, right up to the throat. This causes contraction or complete closure of the upper airway and can be fatal. If the victim has been in a thick smoke filled area the chances of them having inhaled the smoke are high. If there is soot around the mouth and inside the nostrils, the person has most likely inhaled smoke. Swelling of the tongue or in the mouth or difficulty in breathing also indicates the inhalation of smoke. Provide the victim resuscitation, if need be.

    Since, these burns are life-threatening the victim should be moved to a hospital without delay.

Get medical aid for all, but, the most minor of burns. If it is a deep burn or if the burn is spread over a part bigger than the victim's palm, you must immediately transfer the victim to a hospital. Blisters that may form on the skin, after a scald or a burn, should not be pricked or burst. With Diwali just around the corner, keep these tips in mind and share them with family and friends. This guide could help an unfortunate victim of burns and scalds.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: Natarajan22 Sep 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 8

A nice organized article that gives an insight into burns.
Madam, I think the degree of burns is misquoted, likey to be a typo error.
First degree burns (only the epidermis, the outermost layer is involved).
Second-degree burns (the epidermis and dermis are involved)
Third-degree burns ( the damage goes from epidermis through the dermis into the underlying tissues).
The first and second types are painful but the third can be painless.

I like the heading "Remove obstructions". Anything that's encircling a body part snugly should be removed or cut early because as time goes by the affected part swells up and this compromises the blood flow/circulation that can be detrimental to the survival of that part (finger, hand etc).

When we hear about a burns victim report in paper or news, we hear 20% burns, 50% burns etc. Once a patient reaches a hospital, a rough but quick estimation is done by the burns percentage on the palm (excluding fingers and wrist) which is equal to 1%. This usually guides treatment and also helps in predicting the outcome. Hence the importance of getting the majority of burns assessed by a medical specialist.

Lastly, burns can be accidental or a result of the intentional act of self or somebody with intent to harm. Hence, barring the minor ones, rest should be flagged up to the appropriate authorities (police or healthcare professional) who can look into it.

Author: Juana23 Sep 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3


Thank you for the alert.

A little tip here - I have noticed you posting responses to articles under 'New Submission'. Sometime back it was requested that members should not do so, as such responses would become invalid in case the article is not approved. It is better to wait for an article to be approved before you post a comment

The third-degree burns can be painless because of the extent of the damage to the nerves.

You are right in stating that appropriate authorities must be informed. Meanwhile, knowing what to do right, in the interim period could make a lot of difference.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao27 Sep 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

A good article which clearly described the various types of burns and their treatment methods. Of all the burns, chemical burns are very dangerous. Due care should be taken and see that the victim is removed from the site to the hospital in a proper way. Any delay in this will have adverse effects afterwards. Another common practice is when somebody had a burn injury, people will surround him as a group. But it is not a good practice and we should see that the patient will have fresh air to breathe. I had a very bitter experience with one of my friends who had very severe, almost 70% to 80%, burns. I had managed to take him to the hospital in time and proper medication was given. Luckily he survived. But the nightmare I had on that night can't be forgotten forever.
This article will give a lot of insights to people who read it.

Author: Venkiteswaran10 Nov 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3

People suffer from various types of burns a one time or other. Most common of them are burns happening during cooking and frying in kitchen.Next to vaccination marks, most of our women may periodically have small kitchen burn marks on their hands and fingers. Those are minor burns happening routinely in their hurry or lack of space on the kitchen slab, and they touch on hot kitchen vessel like pressure cooker etc, or suffer a hot liquid spill etc.It is a very common occurrence in our households.

Hence this article is relevant and useful for every one.

Mostly they will be minor and need only some minimum first aid.

But the main points to take care are:
1. Do not panic.

2. Reduce or put off flames if there is something on the stove which needs constant attention, especially frying oils etc.

3. Move to the water tap and cool the affected place under running water for sometime.

4. Air dry or sponge dry the place and apply the common anti-burn ointments.

5. Later on, honey also can be applied at the affected place.

Some other common minr burns are from lighting burning fireworks,burning effigies during agitations, accidentally touching on spilled chemicals etc.

The article mentions about various other burns .Some of those need immediate external help also.

However the foremost is not to panic. Get away from the heat source, cool the affected part softly and systematically.Get whatever first aid is available.If needed get external help from others.

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