Burns are a common everyday injury that could occur at home or at work. Serious burns require urgent emergency care, but you can help to limit the damage and extent of the injury if you're conversant with appropriate first aid techniques.
Always keep yourself safe when going to someone's aid. If you cannot reach the casualty without placing yourself in danger, summon the emergency services immediately. Keep talking to the victim to reassure them that help is on the way. Here's a quick guide on first aid treatment for burns.
If you can reach the casualty safely, proceed as follows:
- If the casualty appears to have been injured whilst using an electrical appliance, always turn off the power before approaching the person. To make sure that the electrical current has been disconnected, knock the electrical appliance or wiring away from the victim with a wooden object that won't conduct electricity before you touch them. If you try to help the victim before you've disconnected the power, you risk being electrocuted yourself.
- The first thing you must do is to stop the burning process as quickly as you can. You could do this by removing the victim from the area, smothering the fire with a cloth or blanket, or pouring water onto the flames.
- If the person is wearing jewellery that is in contact with the burnt skin, remove it. Metal holds and conducts heat and will continue to burn the victim even after they have been removed from the source of the burn.
- If possible, cool the burned area with lukewarm water. Don't use ice, very cold water or any form of cream. Extremely cold water could send the victim into shock, and creams will continue the burning process.
- Cover the burned area with a clean plastic bag or cling film. This prevents dirt from entering the burned skin that could set up an infection.
When does a burn require emergency care?
You should summon emergency assistance or take the victim to hospital if any of the following conditions are met:
- the burn site is larger than your hand
- a burn (of any size) results in charred-looking or white skin (this would indicate a serious full-thickness burn)
- the burn results in areas of blistering (partial-thickness burns)
- the victim has suffered electrical or chemical burns
- the victim is a young child or elderly person
- the victim is pregnant
- the victim suffers from an existing medical condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, etc.
Burns can be extremely dangerous if not treated promptly and appropriately. These first aid tips will enable you to limit the extent of a burn injury, and could even save someone's life. For more information, take a first aid course.