Everything You Need To Know About Treating Burns

body with burn scars

The possibility of burns at home or in the work setting is high. Addressing burns is an area of concern for everyone.

Burns cause about 180,000 deaths on a yearly basis. This is according to a report made by the World Health Organization in 2018.

Burns are common injuries in most situations. Yet, prevention is possible. In severe cases, however, burn injuries must be given urgent medical attention. Having a private ambulance service can provide quick transportation for the patient to the nearest emergency room. If you want to learn how to perform first aid for a burn then our Standard First Aid Course best way or if you want to handle first aid in the workplace, you can learn it from our Occupational First Aid Course.

Here are some tips on how you can deal with these injuries in case of an emergency.

What is Burn?

Medical worker treating burns on man's hand

Burns are damages to the skin caused by an external element, like chemicals or heat sources. These damages to the skin are responsible for the death of skin cells in the affected areas. 

Burns can come from a variety of factors. Thermal burns emerge with exposure from an external heat source with high temperatures. These include steam and open flame. Chemical burns come from handling corrosive substances like acids and bases. Electrical burns happen when a high-energy current comes in contact with the body. Radiation burns also occur, often in the form of sunburns.

The most common occurrences of burns are often non-fatal. But, other severe cases create a big impact on the victim’s appearance and esteem.

Different Types of Burns

The level of damage to the affected area classifies a burn. The symptoms can help determine what kind of burn has occurred.

Superficial Burns (First-Degree Burns)

red burn wound on skin

Superficial burns are first-degree burns. These burns only damage the epidermis or the outer layer of the skin.

The affected surface of these burns appears red. Blisters are not present in these burns, but there is a sensation of pain.

Superficial burns are minor burns and only take about 3 to 6 days to heal. The affected skin can recuperate on its own. There will be slight discoloration noticeable on the burned site once the burns have healed. The skin is also visibly darker or lighter as a permanent effect.

Superficial Partial-Thickness Burns (Mild Second-Degree Burns)

Second degree burn wounds on a toddler chest

Superficial partial-thickness injuries are mild second-degree burns. These injuries affect not only the epidermis but also a few parts of the dermis or the inner layer of the skin. Superficial partial-thickness injuries are considered minor burns.

Burns of this kind turn out to be very painful and red. There is also the occasional presence of a few blisters, although this does not always happen in every case.  

It takes 7 to 21 days to recuperate from superficial partial-thickness burns. Permanent effects come in the form of discoloration. Scars are not characteristic of this type of burn.

Deep Partial-Thickness Burns

Boy's legs with second degree burn

Deep partial-thickness injuries are severe second-degree burns. These injuries cause damage to both the epidermis and the dermis to some extent.

These burns can be painful. The appearance of blisters is certain.

Recovering from deep partial-thickness burns can take place for more than 21 days. Scars can emerge from the site of the burn once it has healed. 

Full Thickness Injuries (Third-Degree Burns)

back with second to three degree burn

Full partial-thickness burns are third-degree burns. These burns damage the epidermis and the dermis completely. 

These burns can appear white and leathery. There is no feeling of pain associated with these burns. This is due to the complete damage to the nerve endings, hair follicles, and tiny blood vessels. The site of the burn is dry because the sweat glands are also ruined.

Classified as a major burn, full-thickness burns are a matter of emergency. Victims who identify with this kind of burn need immediate transport to the hospital.

Damage to the tissues is possible with full-thickness burns. Medical treatment is a need, which comes in the form of cosmetic surgery or skin replacement. 

You can expect scars with this kind of burn. 

Fourth-Degree Burns

Burn injury on leg skin

Fourth-degree burns are extreme. This kind of burn incurs destruction on all layers of the skin. The extent of the damage may also include the underlying tissues, bone, joints, and muscles.

Considered a major burn, fourth-degree burns show with charred appearance. The possibility of exposed bones or muscles exists. There is an absence of pain or feeling as the nerve endings in the dermis sustain the damages as well. 

Severe physical injuries are one thing. But, patients who experience these burns can also succumb to shock. This is due to the body’s inflammatory response to extreme injuries. This response orchestrates the large-scale movement of bodily fluids. As a result, blood pressure and blood volume levels drop. When this happens, the patient can suffer from hypothermia and hypovolemic shock.

At the height of these conditions, major organs are at great risk of failure. These include the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

How important is the location of a burn?

Woman with burn in face

The location of a burn is an essential concern.

Burns that occurred on the face and chest areas are something that you need to watch out for. Burns in these spots can have adverse effects on the patient’s breathing.

Burns on the face, nose, mouth, or neck are of special concern as well. These could cause inflammation and swelling that could create airway obstruction. When this happens, the person may have breathing difficulties.

Circumferential burns affect the full perimeter of extremities like arms and legs, or torso. If these burns occur on the upper torso area or the chest, these can cause damage to the underlying tissues. As such, chest wall activity gets limited and hinders sufficient breathing. 

These circumferential burns may constrict blood flow on extremities like arms and legs. The same thing can happen when these burns affect any digit like fingers or toes. The risk of amputation occurs when these parts suffer oxygen deprivation for more than 6 hours.

Burns that occur on joints or body parts that crease like hands and groin require special attention. Burns in these locations may hinder future movement or activity. Therapy may be needed to restore motor abilities. 

Difference between Major and Minor Burns

A burn classifies as major or minor depending on how serious the burns are. In most cases, the location of the burn also factors in determining whether a burn is major or minor.  

Major burns are anything that takes up more than 20% of the total body surface area. This level of injury can sustain tissue damage that triggers inflammation. When this happens, hypovolemic shock and hypothermia can occur. With these conditions, failure of major organs like the heart and brain can take place.

Infection is another concern that arises with major burns. Since the skin suffers severe damage, bacteria can easily penetrate the bloodstream. This can lead to the development of sepsis.

Major burns are a matter of medical emergency. Time is of significant importance when it comes to dealing with major burns. 

Minor burns are burns that are less than 3 inches in size. These burns can be treated at home, and once given immediate care, can heal on their own.

Sunburns and small scalds from touching hot surfaces are considered minor burns. 

Treatment of Burns

Burn covered with wet towel

Each type of burn requires a certain care treatment. Major burns need a prompt medical response. Minor burns can be easily treated at home by following the appropriate care guide.

Major Burns

Since major burns are medical emergencies, only medical experts can administer treatment. But, the time between the accident and the arrival of responders is a crucial period for survival.

Here is what you should do while waiting for help:

  • Put the person in a safe location. Make sure that they are seated comfortably.
  • Check their breathing. If they are having trouble breathing, you can perform rescue breathing. Note that you should only do this if you know how to. 
  • Prevent infection and swelling. Take away the items that brush on the burn as well as those that hinder access to the site. These include jewelry and other accessories. 
  • Remove clothing that touches the burn. Try not to pull it out if it is already stuck to the skin, as this could lead to further complications.
  • A patient that suffers from major burns can fall into hypothermic tendencies. See to it that you cover them with a blanket to keep them warm.
  • Place the burned area in an elevated position that is above the level of the heart.
  • Make the person sit up if the burn takes place on the face. 
  • Continue to observe the person for obvious signs of shock. Monitor their pulse and breathing until help arrives. 

The medical treatment for major burns usually involves the following:

  • Skin replacement or grafting
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Pain management
  • Therapy for motor skills restoration

Minor Burns

Minor burns are fairly easy to treat. By following the proper steps in administering first-aid treatment, nothing can go wrong. 

  • Allow for the burn to cool down. For 20 minutes, hold the affected area under cool, running water. To further ease the pain, applying a cool, wet compress on the site of the burn helps.  
  • Remove items like clothing or jewelry as these could cause infection on the wound. 
  • Avoid picking on the blisters if there is the presence of some. Doing so could lead to excessive scarring. If a blister erupts, clean the area and then apply a layer of antibiotic ointment on it. 
  • You can also apply moisturizing lotion to the burned area. Look for ingredients like aloevera. Applying a layer of lotion keeps the wound moist so that it heals faster. 
  • Put a loosely-wrapped bandage around the site of the burn. Avoid using cotton since this material tends to stick to the wound as it heals. 
  • Oral pain relievers like ibuprofen help make the pain manageable.

In some cases, minor burns can still be considered serious. If the circumstances include the following, seek emergency help for the patient.

  • The burn is larger than three inches 
  • The burn is at the face, hands, feet, groin, buttocks, spine, or shoulder
  • The wound starts to produce an odor
  • Your last tetanus shot took place 5 years ago

Frequently Asked Questions

If it is a minor burn, you can put a cold compress on the site of the burn to further ease the pain. Do this after placing the burn under running water. Once cleaned, put a layer of moisturising lotion on the burn wound. This helps the wound to heal faster. You can wrap it with a loose bandage to prevent it from bacteria exposure.
For minor burns, the first-aid treatment includes running the wound under cool water for 20 minutes. Administering first-aid treatment for major burns is urgent. One should have a clear mind to be able to provide a first-aid response in cases of major burns.
Unfortunately, toothpaste is not good for burns. This old-fashioned home remedy for burns may only do more harm than good. Toothpaste acts as a strong layer of sealant. Its use traps the heat into the skin, making the burn more prone to infections and irritations.
The optimal healing environment for burns involves moisture and coverage. Keep your burn wounds covered and moist so that they can heal faster.
Studies have shown that keeping a burn moist reduces its healing period. Using a moisturizing lotion with aloe vera helps in keeping the wound moist.

Yes, burns need air to heal. This is why when putting a bandage on it, it is important to lightly wrap it so that it can still get enough air. Furthermore, this helps in reducing the chances of irritation.

About Medlink Healthcare Group

Committed to providing a comprehensive healthcare ecosystem, Medlink Healthcare Group delivers top-notch ambulance services, first-aid courses and industrial paramedics. We aim to empower individuals, businesses and communities to effectively respond in times of medical emergencies, right when it matters the most.

Our first aid courses cover a wide range of topics, including a CPR + AED course, BCLS course, occupational first aid course, and a standard first aid course in Singapore—both accredited by SRFAC. Whether you’re an individual looking to acquire life-saving skills or a business investing in workplace safety and health training, we have the right course for you.

Alongside training programs, our private ambulance services are led by highly trained paramedics and equipped with cutting-edge medical technology. Every second counts; we are always ready to provide prompt and expert care when you need it most. 

Our industrial paramedics solutions can also meet the unique needs of your workplace, from on-call doctors to screening exercises and specialised clinics. We ensure that you have access to the right medical services to keep employees safe and sound, no matter where they are. 

Your journey to safety starts with us. Contact us today and prepare to respond in any emergency.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for a comprehensive first-aid course provided by certified professionals. Readers are strongly encouraged to acquire a first aid education to receive the appropriate training and certification.

We do not assume responsibility for any actions taken based on the information provided in this article. Always consult with certified first aid professionals and seek hands-on training to ensure you are well-prepared to handle emergency situations competently.

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