Basic First Aid For Burns

There are two types of burns: Minor and Major. The first aid is different for these two types of burns. It is important to not only know what to do for burn victims but what not to do as well.

Minor burns are when there are first-degree burns of the skin that include redness, discomfort or pain and also some degree of swelling. This type of burn is referred to as a first-degree burn. Burns that are second-degree and cover more than 2 to 3 inches of skin are NOT considered to be minor burns. Minor burns do not necessarily need further medical treatment past the initial first aid.

Minor Burns should have the following first aid:

Broken skin needs to have cool, clean running water over the area of the burn or to be able to soak the burn completely in a cool water bath (not ice water. The burned area of skin should be covered by cool water for at least 5 minutes. Apply a clean, cold, wet towel over the burned area to help reduce pain.

Keep the individual calm.

Reassure the individual that you can help them to feel better.

After you have flushed the area with cool water or have soaked it in cool water; cover the burn with a dry, sterile bandage or a clean sterile dressing.

Do all you can to protect the burn from pressure or friction, as this will add to the injury.

You can give over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help bring pain relief and to help relieve swelling. It is important to NOT give any aspirin to children under age 12.

After the skin has cooled, you can moisturize the skin with lotion.

Minor burns will typically heal well, without further treatment.

It is also important that anyone sustaining any type of burn be up to date on immunizations including tetanus, especially is the skin was broken.

Major Burns:

Major burns are those burn injuries in which 2nd-degree or 3rd-degree burns have been sustained.

2nd-degree burns affect both the outer layer of skin and the underlying layer of skin. 2nd-degree burns are painful, cause redness and swelling as well as blistering of the skin. 3rd-degree burns go deeper into the layers of skin and cause white, black or charred looking skin. The individual with 3rd-degree burns may have a feeling of numbness.

Individuals with 2nd-degree or 3rd-degree burns should have immediate professional medical care due to the possibility of serious infection, injury, and complications and in severe cases death.

First aid for major burns include:

If the individual is actively on fire, the individual must immediately STOP, DROP, and ROLL.

Wrap the individual in a thick material to smother out any remaining flames. Thick material includes a wool or cotton coat, blanket or rug.

If possible douse the individual with water.

Remove the individual from any active fire remains such as smoldering materials.

Call professional medical personnel as soon as the individual is out of immediate danger.

It is very important not to remove any burnt material from the individual as material may be stuck to the skin and trying to remove it may further damage the skin.

Check to be sure the individual is breathing properly.

If breathing has stopped, or if the individual’s airway is blocked, it is vital to open the airway.

Begin rescue breathing and CPR if indicated.

Cover the burned area of skin with a dry sterile bandage or a clean cloth. If the burned area is large, use a clean, dry sheet.

DO NOT apply any ointments to a major burn. DO NOT attempt to break any blisters.

You can separate any burned fingers or toes with sterile, non-adhesive dressings.

Elevate the burned body part above the heart level of the individual.

Protect the burned area of skin from pressure and friction.

Prevent shock by laying the person flat (elevate burned area) and elevate the feet by 12″, covering the individual with a coat, rug or blanket.

DO NOT MOVE A PERSON WHO HAS SUSTAINED INJURY to the head, neck, back or legs.

Monitor the individual’s vital signs (pulse, breaths, and blood pressure) if possible until professional medical personnel arrive.

What NOT to do for a burn victim:

It is important to know what NOT to do when giving first aid to a burn victim.

DO NOT apply any kind of ointment, butter, ice, medications, cream, oil spray, or any other household remedy to a severe burn

DO NOT breathe, blow, or cough on a burn

DO NOT touch in anyway a blister, or charred (white or black) skin

DO NOT remove any clothing from a severely burned victim

DO NOT give a severely burned victim anything by mouth

DO NOT immerse a severely burned individual in cold water as this may cause shock

DO NOT put a pillow under the head of someone who has an airway burn, as this could close the airway