What Should You Do When You Suffer a Burn?
Minor to moderate burns are one of the many types of injuries that patients at our Orange County medical clinic seek treatment for. As with many types of injuries, treating a burn the right way can have a big impact on how well it heals, and whether or not it becomes a more serious issue.
Assessing the Extent of a Burn
There are three major categories of burns:
- First-degree burns – Also called “superficial burns.” First degree burns are minor burns to the top level of skin. They cause redness, minor swelling, pain, and skin flaking after the burn starts to heal.
- Second-degree burns – Second-degree burns are more serious than first-degree burns because they extend past the first level of skin. In addition to the redness, swelling, and pain caused by first-degree burns, second-degree burns also result in blisters and pus. Second-degree burns do not always require medical care, but large burns or burns on the face, buttocks, groin, or hands and feet should always be cared for by a medical professional.
- Third-degree burns – These are the most serious types of burns, and extend through all layers of skin, and sometimes to areas of the body beneath the skin. Third-degree burns should always be treated by a medical professional. Signs of a third-degree burn include skin that is charred, waxy, dark brown, or leathery. When a third-degree burn happens, do not attempt to treat it yourself. Raise the burned area above the level of the heart, remove any clothing from the burned area, and wait for medical professionals.
While there is a “fourth degree” classification for burns, burns of that severity occur far less often and extend to the tendons and bones.
Treating the Burn
For first or second-degree burns that are small enough for treatment at home, follow these steps:
- Stop the burning – The first step in treating a burn is to make sure that the burning has completely stopped. If your clothes are on fire, use the stop, drop, and roll method to extinguish the flames. For liquid burns or scalds, run cold water over the burned area (do NOT apply ice to the burned skin). Electrical burns and chemical burns, along with serious heat or liquid burns, should be treated by immediately contacting emergency services once the person has been removed from the source of the burn.
- Look for other injuries – When a burn injury happens, there may be more than one burn site or other injuries that resulted from the burn, or while putting out a fire. Check to see if there are any other injuries that need attention, and treat them appropriately.
- Clean the area – When a portion of the skin has been burned, remove or cut away any jewelry or clothing around the area, being careful not to aggravate the injury. Burn wounds often start swelling shortly after the initial injury, and clothing and jewelry can be hard to remove after swelling has begun. The only exception to this is if clothing has become stuck to the burn wound; if clothing has become stuck to the burned skin, do not try to remove it, as this can result in torn skin and other further injury. Instead, contact emergency services and let them do the removal.
- Cover the burn – To reduce the risk of infection, the burned area should be covered with a clean medical cloth or gauze, which should be changed frequently. For burns that will require further treatment by a doctor, do not apply any salves or ointments. Burn creams and other medicines can make it harder for doctors and emergency workers to examine the wound properly and diagnose the extent of the industry, and they will apply their own medicine, as necessary, after an examination has been made.
For burn treatment or other medical care needs, please call us at 949-548-8400.