Firework season is upon us in the UK, so I thought this was a good time to post advice on how to treat a burn. Most minor burns can be treated successfully by first aid and will heal on their own. A burn can lead into a casualty suffering shock, which is potentially life-threatening, if a large area of the body is burned or several layers of skin are broken or you are in any way concerned about the severity of the burn then you should ensure the casualty seeks medical attention as soon as possible. You should always seek medical advice for any burn if the casualty is an infant or child.
First, as in any first aid situation, make sure it is safe to approach the casualty, you will not help them if you become injured yourself!
How to treat a burn:
- Stop any burning process, this means removing any source of heat, dousing flames with water or smothering them with a blanket. Make sure you never put yourself at risk to do any of this.
- Remove any clothing, jewellery or watches from the affected area as there will be swelling, however if clothing is stuck to the skin do not remove it.
- Cool the area for at least 10 minutes with cool water, immersing the affected area in water using a bucket, bowl or basin is usually better for the casualty as running a tap can cause the water to become very cold and uncomfortable. Never use ice or iced water! The old wives tale of using butter to cool a burn is a very bad idea, as butter is a fat and, once applied, will contain heat in the area, making the burn worse.
- Keep the casualty warm with clothing or blankets (but not on the injured area), as cooling the area, especially in larger burns, can lead to a risk of hypothermia.
- Do not use any creams or gels on the burn, even those sold as burn treatments, they do not aid the cooling process.
- Once the area has been cooled with water only, for at least 10 minutes, then apply a layer of clean cling film, but do not wrap the limb fully. If you do not have cling film then a clean plastic bag or a sterile, non-fluffy dressing with a loose bandage to keep it in place can be used.
- Pain relief, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given. Always follow the manufacturers guidelines for dosage.
- If the burn is to the face or eyes then keep the casualty sitting upright to reduce swelling.
- Never burst any blisters that form on the burn, this would increase the risk of infection.
If you would like to learn more about how to treat a burn or learn how to deal with other common first aid situations then Medsafe Consultancy has the perfect first aid training course for you.