This advice should not be substituted for medical attention. If in doubt, consult a physician immediately!
The different burns:
First-degree burn: This is the least severe burn and only involves the outer layer of skin. The skin will often be somewhat red and painful.
Second-degree burn: Second-degree burns occur when the first layer has been burned through and the second layer of skin has also been burned. These are much more painful than first degree burns and are usually accompanied swelling and blisters.
Third-degree burn: One of the most severe types of burns. A third-degree burn occurs when all the layers of the skin are burned through and the burn has reached the underlying tissue. The skin may appear stiff and leathery in appearance. Sometimes a third-degree burn will appear waxy white.
Fourth-degree burn: The most severe form of a burn which reaches beyond the underlying tissue into the muscle, nerves and bones. The area will look blackened or charred.
When to see a doctor:
- A second-degree burn that is equal to or larger than 3 inches in diameter
- For third-degree burns
- For fourth-degree burns
- For burns that cover large portions of the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint on the body
- If there is difficulty in breathing or if the burn affects the airway
- If there is uncontrolled pain
- If experiencing dizziness, confusion, weakness, fever, chills, shivering, or cold sweats
Minor burns: First degree burns and second degree burns that are fewer than three inches in diameter
- Cool the burn by running cool (not cold) water over the area or immerse the burn in cool water.
- Don’t spray burns with high pressure water; just let it run over the burn.
- Don’t put ice directly on the burn, as this can cause further damage to the skin.
- Take a pain reliever. Any of the common over-the-counter pain relievers will work.
- With reddened skin (no blisters) can be treated with a topical burn ointment or spray to reduce pain. Ointments should be water soluble.
- Do not put on a bandage. Bandages will cut off air so it will take longer to heal.
- Wrap the wounded area loosely with clean dry gauze. The gauze protects the burn from air, debris, dirt and contamination. Use a non-stick dressing.
- Change the dressing every day
- Wash the wound gently.
Major Burns: A second-degree burn that is equal to or larger than 3 inches in diameter, third-degree burns and fourth-degree burns
Seek medical help!
How to care for major burn until medical help arrives:
- Do not remove any embedded charred clothing or material.
- If not stuck to the burn, remove jewelry and unburned clothing if may constrict the burned area.
- Apply cool, wet compresses to the burned area for a very brief period of time.
- Do not use ice or immerse the affected area in cold water.
- Burn victim may go into shock.
- Shock symptoms: weak, rapid pulse, clammy skin, disorientation or unconsciousness, nausea, combativeness.
- Cover the burned area with cool, moist, sterile bandages.
- Elevate the burn above the heart.
- Use clean, pure, cool water or saline solution if available as first aid for major burns.
- Protect the area with a sterile or very clean cloth.
- Wash your hands before touching or treating burns. Wear gloves if at all possible.
- Never pop or burst any blister caused by a burn.
- Anyone burned to the third-degree or above needs to be transported by ambulance.
- Blistering or skin coming off means the top layer of skin is completely damaged and infections are likely.
- While the burn is healing, wear loose natural clothing like silks or light cottons. Harsher fabrics will irritate the skin even more.