A burn occurs when there is an injury to the body tissues due to heat, chemicals, electricity and even sunlight. A burn caused by hot liquid or steam is termed a scald.
Classifications of burns
Burns are classified according to their severity.
– First-degree burn: affects only the outermost layer of skin (epidermis).
– Second-degree burn: affects the layer of skin beneath the epidermis (dermis).
– Third-degree burn: affects all layers of the skin and the tissue underneath.
Symptoms of burns
– First-degree burn: Redness, pain, mild swelling, slight tenderness.
– Second-degree burn: Redness, inflammation, severe pain and blistering of the skin. If the blisters break open, the area beneath is pinkish/reddish in color.
– Third-degree burn: The affected area is waxy or dry, and may be white, leathery or charred. Due to nerve and blood vessel damage, there is little, if any, pain.
It is important to keep an eye on a burn, as it has a tendency to worsen. For example, first-degree burns may turn into second-degree burns over time.
Treating minor burns
– If the victim has any clothing or jewellery at the injury site, try to remove it.
– If the burn is very painful, it is probably superficial (only affecting the top layer of the skin). Preventing further injury is crucial at this point, and requires quick care.
– Cool the affected area by running cold water on the burn until the skin returns to normal temperature (up to 20 minutes for a thermal burn, 20 minutes or more for a chemical burn and 30 minutes for a bitumen burn).
– If this is not possible, apply a cold water compress.
– Do NOT used iced water as this can worsen the injury.
– Cover the burn with a clean and sterile non-stick material.
– Do NOT use any of the following: adhesive dressings, fat (eg. butter), ointment or lotions.
– Do NOT break a blister or touch the burn.
When in doubt, leave it to a doctor. If at any point you feel that you are unable to provide good or correct care, don’t push it, as you risk causing more injury. In these cases, consult a doctor at once.