Learning About Burning

Learning About Burning

There is no other terror than getting burned.  A burn, whether small or large, can turn into a nightmare on many fronts.  If not treated swiftly and efficiently, a burn can turn into an event that calls for serious hospitalization and the results of that hospitalization, devastating.

 

Move Fast When Burns Happen

Burns can happen at anytime, anywhere.  Usually it’s an accident, caused by an unsuspecting event or from one’s lack of paying attention.  The foolhardiness and irresponsibility of others, and sometimes just nature.  The bottom line is one can minimize the results of a small or large burn with quick acting and we’ll look at all the smart things to do.

 

First Aid Kits

If you’ve not gotten one yet, it is a good idea to have some first aid kits around the home, office, in the car.  Make sure they’re easily accessible and contain what will be needed in case of a burn event.  Teach others in the office and household to use them properly, and drill often.  This will make it easier to control the outcome of an event and make it easier for first responders and medical staff to treat you with greater efficiency and alacrity.  The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is in full effect here.

 

Prevention

preventing burns depends first on one’s alertness and the careful use of materials and appliances and equipment.  Mother nature’s assaults are something altogether and there is just so much a person can do to prevent burns from lightning or other natural occurrences.  In those cases just simple common sense and looking where you’re going is all one can do.  In the home and office, it’s a different matter.  As man developed more technologies, he introduced dozens of ways for burns to occur.

From fries, to hot liquids, and chemicals, a person risks burns from multiple sources each day.  The careful and responsible use of these mechanisms and materials cannot be understated.  Pay attention to when you’re cooking.  Not only can a stove burn you with fire and heat, but the foods you’re cooking can splatter or spill causing severe burns.  Keep lids on properly and don’t wear loose clothing near open flames.  Don’t let children or pets near a stove or bar-b-que pit, and don’t let them near chemicals that they can get into.

Hot surfaces like irons are another danger.  Sometimes it’s tough to tell how hot an iron is until it’s too late.  People don’t realize how hot an iron can get and you need to look for steam, and heat blurring.  Tools that have been in use may retain heat for some time so it’s best to handle all tools with care.  Even beauty products like curling irons or hair straighteners can leave a nasty burn.  These devices should be turned off and not left around haphazardly.  Children should never be allowed to touch such devices, even toasters.  Out or reach is out of danger the old saying goes.

 

What To Do When A Burn Happens

The first and foremost thing to do when a burn happens is to keep cool, calm, and collected. Don’t panic.  Even if it’s painful, you’ll need to keep your head together or you may miss the vital opportunities to minimize the damage and prevent further pain and complications.  If you have a first aid kit nearby, open it and access the materials you’ll need to treat the burn until further help is acquired.  Since burn damage is measured by degrees, there is something you can do for the lesser burns as well as for more severe ones, but each step calls for moving quickly, keeping a cool head, and using the right remedial techniques.

 

First Things First

If the burn goes as deep as all layers of skin call 911

If the skin looks leathery or all charred up and has white or black or brown patches call 911.

If the burn blister starts oozing and is bigger than two inches.

If the burn victim is a baby or a senior.

Should the feet, face, hands or genitals suffer a burn.

 

First Actions During A Burn Event

Get the person to “Stop, drop, and roll” should flames be present.

Put the fire out or remove the person from contact with a hot liquid or other hot substance.

Remove any burned o hot clothing and don’t pull it off a burn but cut around it.

Discard any smoldering material from their body.

 

Since burns can swell rather rapidly, you’ll need to remove any constrictive clothing or jewelry.

Hold the burned area under cool water, not cold water, until the pain subsides.  If no running water is available use a compress.

Protect the burn with a sterile covering that is non-adhesive like a bandage or cloth that’s clean.  Don’t resort to applying anything topical that isn’t medically confirmed for burns like butter or oils as they can promote infections.  Dispensing over the counter pain medicines like Tylenol or Advil or even Aleve should be the next step to temporarily relieve pain.   If the pain worsens or swelling or signs of infections occur, then go to the emergency room of your local hospital.

 

If The Burns Are 2nd Degree

In the event that burns reach the level of 2nd degree burns your actions are as follows.

 

Go to the emergency room for any shots or medication to treat swelling, infections or prolonged pain.

Such burns should be put under cool water for between 10 to 15 minutes and use a compress if there’s no running water available.  Do not apply ice as it can cause further injury from lower body temperature.  Again, don’t apply anything that isn’t medically designed to treat burns like butter or ointments.

 

Other Things To Do

Cover the burn area with sterile yet loose and nonstick bandages and set in place with tape and gauze.  Make the person lie flat and elevate their legs above heart level.  Cover the person with something warm like a blanket or coat, also keep the burn area elevated if possible. Then get to a doctor asap.

 

For More Serious Burns

Should 3rd degree burns occur call 911 immediately.  Cover the burn area with loose, nonstick, sterile bandages and if the burn area is large, a sheet or any other fabric that won’t deposit lint in the wound.  If possible, separate the burned toes and fingers with any dry sterile dressings you can find.  Again, having a first aid kit handy is imperative.  Again, don’t apply non medical approved topical ointments like butter or oils.  Don’t soak the 3rd degree burn.  These steps can cause complications like infections.

 

Preventing Shock

Like with 2nd degree burns, elevate the person’s feet and burn area if possible to above heart level. If they have a facial burn have them sit up.  If the burn is an airway burn don’t put a pillow behind the person if they’re laying down as it can constrict their airway.  Keep an eye on heartbeat, pulse, and breathing and hold down the fort until the first responder emergency team arrives.

 

Don’ts

Do not interfere with emergency personnel when they arrive.  Answer questions with brevity unless asked otherwise.  Don’t panic, again, keeping a cool head is most important.

 

Bottom Line

Evan a small burn can expand into something of concern and prevention as well as cool headed response time can be all the difference in the world regarding a burn event.

About Dr Adam Blackwell

Adam Blackwell M.D. Author and Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU.
Dr Adam writes regularly for NBC med.