Burns can be categorized based on how severe they are and how much of the victim’s bodily tissues are involved. You have probably heard of first, second, and third degree burns, with first degree burns being the mildest form and third degree burns being the most severe. First aid for burns is specific to the type burn being treated. Some burn treatments can be performed at home using medications found in your first aid kit, while others need immediate medical attention.
Treatment for first degree burns
First degree burns only involve the first layer of skin. This layer is designed to help keep the fluids within the body, as well as to keep bacteria and other foreign elements from entering. These burns are not considered to be very serious, while they can be painful. First degree burns on the buttocks, face, feet, groin, or hands may need medical attention.
The first step to treating a first degree burn is to cool the burn. Running cool water or placing a cool compress on the burn site is usually the most effective way to do this. Cooling the burn off as soon as possible after the burn occurs will help prevent further damage and painful swelling.
Treatment for second degree burns
A second degree burn is more severe than a first degree burn, and penetrates the second layer of the skin. Because there is a layer of fluid between the two skin layers, a second degree burn can lead to blistering, as well as significant pain from the swelling.
The treatment for second degree burns can be similar to the treatment of first degree burns. The burn should be cooled off as soon as possible using cool water or cool compresses. If the second burn is large, bigger than 3 inches long, or if it is on a sensitive area like the buttocks, face, feet, or hands, you should have medical attention for the burn. If the burn is very large, affecting an entire limb or other large portion of the body, it should be treated as an emergency. Call your doctor or 911 immediately for further instructions on what you should do to treat the burn.
While third degree burns are the most serious, surprisingly enough they may not be very painful. This can cause some people to think that they do not even need medical attention for the burn, because it must not be that significant. However, third degree burns are not painful because the nerve endings have been cauterized. These burns penetrate through the fat and skin, and can go as deep as the bone (though some doctors consider burns that go down to the bone fourth degree burns).
In the case of a third degree burn, the victim should be removed from the source immediately and emergency services should be called. Keep the victim laying down with the feet elevated, and place cool towels over the burn site. Do not try to immerse the victim in water or remove clothing as this can make the burn worse. Stay with the victim until emergency services arrives.