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First Aid Guide to All types of Burns

Around 50,000 people present to a hospital with a burn-related injury each year here in Australia. Burns and scalds can come in many forms and from various sources. Would you know what to do if you needed to treat a burn? If you answered no to that question, we can help! In this post, we’ll share some basic information on burns and how to treat them.

Burn injuries

Burns can be caused by many things, here are some of the more common ones:

  1. Heaters
  2. Fire
  3. Hot water
  4. The sun
  5. Frypans and pots
  6. Candles
  7. Stoves tops and ovens
  8. Hot water bottles
  9. Hair straighteners and curlers
  10. Hot drinks

Scalds and burns, is there any difference?

You’ve likely heard or used the terms scalds and burns interchangeably, but is there any difference between the two? In fact, they are both burn injuries however, a scald is caused by a source that is wet. For example, hot coffee or steam. A burn is caused by a heat source such as fire or an iron. While the injuries come from different forms of heat, the treatment is the same. The most common type of burn injury is a scold, and both burns and scalds are primarily sustained at home. This is because many daily household items are high-risk for this type of injury, for instance, kettles, irons, fry pans, heaters etc. While most try to be cautious when handling these, accidents still happen.

Ways burns are sustained

Burns can be sustained in five distinct ways. They are:

  1. Electricity
  2. Friction
  3. UV radiation
  4. Chemicals
  5. Hot liquids

The different types of burns are:

Burns are categorised into three different types.

First-degree burn/superficial

First degree burns are considered the least serious of the three. They are defined as damage to the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis). Symptoms associated with this type of burn include pain at the wound site, redness, and dryness. Permanent tissue damage from a superficial burn is rare. An example of this type of burn would be sunburn.

Second-degree burn/partial thickness burns

A second-degree burn is more severe than a first-degree burn, and the injury penetrates past the first layer of skin and down to the second (the dermis). It is considered more serious because the damage extends past the superficial layer and deeper down. The risk of infection is higher as second-degree burns are more susceptible to bacterial infections. Symptoms expected with this type of burn are redness, pain, blistering, peeling, and swelling. The wound may seep a yellowish tinged liquid.

Third-degree burn/full-thickness burns

The most severe of all burns is a third-degree burn. They ravage both the epidermis and dermis as well as the subcutaneous tissue in some instances. The site of the wound may appear charred, blackened or even white. The white is usually exposed fatty tissue. The pain is less as the nerve endings are destroyed. Symptoms include swelling and a dry and leathery skin texture. This type of burn heals slowly as the epidermis and hair follicles are obliterated, and new skin cannot grow here. Often, they will get infected, and they heal poorly without adequate medical treatment.

The following first aid treatments should only be used for minor burns. Those who have sustained major burns should always seek medical help by calling 000. They are considered serious and need urgent attention.

How to apply first aid to minor burns

Minor burns can usually be treated at home with no medical intervention. The objective is to manage pain, prevent scarring, and minimise the risk of infection.

All types of minor burns can be treated by:

  1. Removing any jewellery near the burn area if it is safe to do so. The same applies to clothing/nappies etc that are not stuck to the skin. If they are stuck to the skin, it is likely the burn is more serious and may require medical attention.
  2. Run cool water over the burn site for approximately 20 minutes. Do not use ice, warm water, or creams, as these can worsen the injury.
  3. After 20 minutes, cover the burn with a clean and sterile dressing that is non-stick.

If the burn is:

  1. Located on the hands, groin, or face
  2. Sustained from chemicals or electricity
  3. Looks deep
  4. Bigger than a 20-cent piece
  5. Infected

You should seek medical advice.

Do not use the following on burns or scalds

  1. Ice
  2. Butter
  3. Lotions
  4. Warm water
  5. Cotton balls
  6. Food items of any kind

We hope this post has given you an idea about burns and scalds and what you should do if you ever have one or are nearby when someone else gets injured.

To learn more about burns, we highly recommend taking a first aid course. In your training, you will learn how to respond and treat burns from various substances and degrees with confidence. While we all hope we’ll never have to use such skills, you never know when you will be confronted with a situation like this and knowing what to do can promote optimal health outcomes and reduce the risk of infection.

We’re a registered training organisation here at Paradise First Aid, and we specialise in first aid and emergency care courses right across the Gold Coast and South East Queensland. If learning first aid is something you’re interested in, contact us today. With three convenient locations and various classes during the week, learning has never been easier.