How to Treat Burns and Scalds
The general treatment of all burns is very simple: cool and cover the affected part, and seek appropriate medical help. Before you do anything else, make sure that you protect yourself This is particularly important at burns incidents. Ensure that the fire is out, that any electrical equipment is safely disconnected or that any chemical spills are not going to affect you.
First Aid Treatment
- Monitor the casualty's airway and breathing. This is particularly important if the casualty has burns to the mouth and airway. Be prepared to resuscitate if necessary.
- If possible lay the casualty on the ground to help reduce the effects of shock.
- Douse the burnt area with cool liquid. Cooling the burn will reduce the pain, swelling and risk of scarring. Restrict the cool liquid to the injured part where possible because overcooling could lead to hypothermia, particularly if the surrounding air temperature is low. If applying water from a shower, hose or even a gushing tap, ensure that the pressure is minimal because water hitting burnt skin at speed will add to the pain and the damage.
- Make an assessment about whether or not an ambulance is needed and call for help.
- Keep cooling the injured part until the pain stops. Often 10 minutes is sufficient but if the casualty still complains of pain after this time then continue with the cooling treatment.
- Remove rings, watches and other potential constricting items as burns swell up. Take care to return these items to the casualty.
- Once the pain has eased, cover the wound to prevent infection. This should be done with a sterile bandage if possible, tied very loosely over the burn. If in any doubt as to whether material may stick to the wound, do not attempt to cover but continue to cool the burns continuously until medical help arrives. If you are having to improvise, any clean, nonfluffy material can be used - ideal examples are clean handkerchiefs, cotton pillowcases or clingfilm.
- If possible, raise the injured part as this can help to reduce swelling.
Wait with the injured person until help arrives or, if the burn is less serious, accompany her to further medical attention.
- Treat for shock.
- Maintain a check on the casualty's airway, breathing and circulation.
- Keep checking bandages to ensure that they are not too tight.
- Do not over-cool the casualty.
- Do not apply water under pressure.
- Do not remove burnt clothing if it is sticking to the wound.
- Do not put cotton wool or any other fluffy material on to a burn as it will stick to the injury.
- Do not put any creams or ointments on to a burn as these will need to be removed at the hospital.
- Do not burst blisters as this may increase the risk of infection.
- Check for danger
- Assess ABC (be prepared to resuscitate if necessary)
- Cool the injured part
- Make an appropriate decision aboUt what help is required and call for an ambulance if necessary
- Cover the injured part
- Treat for shock throughout your treatment of the burn
- Elevate the injured part if possible
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