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Burns

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BurnsBurns are injuries due to heat/chemicals/electricity/friction. Most commonly burns are caused due to exposure to fire, hot liquids and steam. Chemical burns occur when the skin is exposed to chemicals. Burns can injure the layers of the skin and severe burns can affect the muscles, fat and bones. It is important to determine the extent of tissue damage before starting treatment for burns.

Categories of Burns

Burns are categorized depending on the severity of tissue damage.

  • First degree - This is superficial and involves only the outer layer of the skin
  • Second degree - This is a relatively minor, deep burn where the first and second layer of skin is burned
  • Third degree - This is a deep burn involving all layers of the skin. In this case, the nerves, sweat glands, blood vessels are destroyed
  • Fourth degree - This is a very deep burn extending through the skin into the subcutaneous tissue and muscle and bone

Symptoms

  • First degree:
    • Local inflammation of the skin
    • Pain, redness and some swelling
    • No blisters are seen
  • Second degree:
    • Pain, intense redness and swelling
    • Blisters are seen
  • Third degree:
    • Lack of pain due to the nerve endings being destroyed
    • Charring may be seen
    • Blisters appear burnt
    • Swelling
    • Fluid oozing out
    • High possibility of casualty going into shock
  • Fourth degree:
    • Charring may be seen
    • Blisters appear burnt
    • Area may appear white
    • Bone may be visible

Action

  • First degree:
    • Cool the area with cool running water for about 15 minutes to stop the burning and relieve the pain
    • Gently remove any jewellery, watches, or constricting clothing from the burned area before it starts to swell
    • Cover the area with a sterile dressing, or any clean (non-fluffy) material to protect from infection. Wrap the dressing loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin.
    • Do NOT use adhesive dressings
  • Second degree:
    • Remove casualty from burning area
    • Cover the area (loosely) with a clean, wet cloth
    • Keep the burned area elevated
    • Do NOT use adhesive dressings
    • Casualty needs medical attention
  • Third degree:
    • Remove casualty from burning area
    • Casualty requires immediate medical attention
    • Cover the area (loosely) with a clean, dry cloth to prevent infection
    • Keep the burned area elevated
  • Fourth degree:
    • Remove casualty from burning area
    • Casualty requires immediate medical attention
    • Cover the area (loosely) with a large clean, dry cloth to prevent infection
    • Keep the burned area elevated

Important: For deep burns

  • Do NOT remove burned clothing
  • Do NOT immerse burned areas in cold water
  • Do NOT burst blisters
  • Do NOT apply lotions, ointment, oil or butter to the burned area
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