First Aid for Burns

Everyone should know what the first aid is for minor and major burns. Giving prompt first aid to those with burns can help to lessen the severity of the burn and can help to reduce the occurrence of or severity of scarring, deformity or disability as a result of burns.

A minor burn is classified as a burn injury to the skin that involves the first or first and underlying layer of skin. Your skin has 3 layers of skin. The purpose of your skin is to protect against infection and to prevent fluid loss and heat loss.

Major burns refer to the more serious burns. These serious burns affect the deeper layers of skin including the nerves. When the nerves are damaged as in major burns, there is no pain felt by the burn victim because the nerve endings cannot send the message of pain to the brain. The skin of an individual with a major burn is hard and leathery. Major burns are where the skin is charred looking, white or black in color.

The first thing to do for any burn victim is to safely separate the individual from the source of the burn.

Minor burns need prompt first aid.

First aid for minor burns:

If the burned skin has no breaks in it, run it under cool water or soak it in cool water. Do NOT use ice water. Keep the skin under cool water for at least 5 minutes. Place a cool, wet towel over the burned skin to help reduce the pain.

Make sure that the burned individual remains calm.

After cooling the skin with the cool water, cover the burn with a dry, sterile bandage or clean gauze.

Do all you can to protect the burn from pressure or friction.

You may use over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help relieve the pain and swelling. Children under 12 years of age should never be given aspirin. You can moisturize the skin, once it has cooled.

Normally, minor skin does not require any other first aid besides the cooling and pain relief. Make sure you continue to protect the skin from infection by covering with the sterile bandages until the burn has healed.

Major burns need prompt assessment, first aid and immediate medical attention.

First aid for major burns:

If the clothing or body of a person is on fire, have them STOP, DROP, and ROLL to extinguish the flames. Use thick material to smother the flames (wool or cotton coat or a blanket or a rug).

Major burns are burns that are 2 to 3 inches in diameter or greater, burns that are located on the face, feet, buttocks, genitals, groin area or cover a major joint and also burns that are blackened, white or charred looking.

Call 911 for emergency assistance immediately.

Do not remove any clothing that appears to be stuck to skin.

Make sure that the person is breathing. Perform CPR if there are no breath sounds and the person does not respond to your inquiries (ARE YOU ALRIGHT?)

Cover the burned skin with a dry, sterile bandage or a clean cloth to protect against infection.

Do not apply ointments to a major burn.

If fingers or toes have been burned, separate them with dry sterile gauze.

Elevate the burned skin above heart level and protect the burned skin from friction or pressure.

Give shock treatment by lying the person flat, elevate the feet about 12″, and cover with a coat or blanket (unless there is a head injury, neck, back or leg injury). Do not keep the person in the shock position if it makes them uncomfortable.

Monitor the individual’s vital signs if possible (pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure).

It is important to not apply ointment, ice, and medications to someone with major burns. Keeping the individual safe, calm and to monitor vitals are the important tasks until professional medical personnel arrive.