Burns, one of the most common injuries, is something that needs to be tended with utmost care as it can cause extensive skin damage, permanent scarring and infection, in addition to severe pain, discomfort and associated complications. The degree and the cause of burns determine the chances of recovery, and it is very important to seek immediate medical attention if the injury/ extent of skin burnt is beyond what can be handled at home.
There are three primary types of burns: first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree. The level of degree depends upon the severity of damage to the skin.
- First-degree burns: Red skin, minor inflammation (swelling)
- Second-degree burns: Blisters and thickening of skin in some areas
- Third-degree burns: Charred dark brown skin, widespread thickness with a white or a leathery appearance. When the damage of third-degree burns extends beyond the skin and reaches the tendons and bones, it is called fourth-degree burn
Burns are usually caused due to
- Scalding from hot, boiling liquids
- Excessive sun exposure
- Chemical and Electrical burns
- Fire burns, including burns from matches, candles, and lighters
All burns require mandatory first aid treatment, while partial and full thickness burns require immediate medical attention. It can be difficult to tell the difference between partial and full-thickness burns as the extent of the burn is more critical when it comes to initial treatment.
First aid for burns
- Hold the burnt area under cold running water for 15-20 minutes and prevent heat loss by covering unburnt areas
- Remove the burnt clothing only if it is not sticking to the burn.
- Wash away the chemical that caused the burn (such as acids and alkali) under running water for minimum 20 minutes.
- Superficial burns have to be treated to ensure there’s no infection.
- Do not apply anything other than water in case of second/ third degree burns and seek immediate medical help.
What not to do
- Do not use ice, as it may worsen the damage.
- Do not use cotton to clean burns as the fibers can stick to the injury and lead to infections.
- Do not use home remedies like butter and eggs as these are do not help in any manner.
- Chances of damage to skin and infection can be minimised if first-degree/ second-degree burns are treated the right way
- Severe damage from second-degree and third-degree burns can affect the skin tissues, bones, and even some organs. In such cases, patients may require surgery/ skin grafting, rehabilitation, physical therapy and some times, lifelong assisted care.
- Along with adequate physical treatment patients who have suffered severe second/ third degree burns also require steady emotional support, as burns also scar one’s mind. They need to be brought back to normal life with love, care and understanding.