Dr Tendai Zuze Matters of Health
This cold weather always provides potential for someone to get burnt. How you deal with a burn soon after it happens is important in the long term outcome. An important consideration is the seriousness of the burn, which is determined by its degree. First degree burns, the least serious, are those in which only the outer layer of skin is burnt, but not all the way through. With first degree burns:
The skin is usually red
Often there is swelling
Pain is sometimes present
Treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn unless it involves substantial portions of the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or a major joint, which requires emergency medical attention.
Second degree burns are when the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer of skin (dermis) also is burned. With second degree burns:
Skin takes on an intensely reddened, splotchy appearance
There is severe pain and swelling.
If the second-degree burn is less than about 8cm in diameter, treat it as a minor burn. If the burned area is larger or if the burn is on the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or over a major joint, treat it as a major burn and get medical help immediately.
For minor burns, including first-degree burns and second-degree burns limited to an area no larger than 8cm in diameter, take the following action:
Don’t put ice on the burn.
Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Don’t usefluffy cotton, or other material that may get lint in the wound. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burn, reduces pain and protects blistered skin.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. These include aspirin, brufen, and paracetamol. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
Apply burn cream, such as silver sulferdiazide(SSD) or betadine burn cream.
Minor burns usually heal without further treatment. They may heal with pigment changes, meaning the healed area may be a different colour from the surrounding skin. Watch for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. If infection develops, seek medical help. Avoid re-injuring or tanning if the burns are less than a year old — doing so may cause more extensive pigmentation changes.
Don’t use ice. Putting ice directly on a burn can cause a person’s body to become too cold and cause further damage to the wound.
Don’t apply egg whites, butter or ointments to the burn. This could cause infection.
Don’t break blisters. Broken blisters are more vulnerable to infection
Third degree burns, the most serious, involve all layers of the skin and cause permanent tissue damage. Fat, muscle and even bone may be affected. Areas may be charred black or appear dry and white. For major burns, call an ambulance or rush to the nearest emergency unit. Meanwhile, follow these steps:
1. Don’t remove burned clothing. However, make sure the victim is no longer in contact with smouldering materials or exposed to smoke or heat.
2. Don’t immerse large severe burns in cold water. Doing so could cause a drop in body temperature (hypothermia) and deterioration of blood pressure and circulation (shock).
3. Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement). If there is no breathing or other sign of circulation, begin CPR.
4. Elevate the burned body part or parts. Raise above heart level, when possible.
5. Cover the area of the burn. Use a cool, moist, sterile bandage; clean, moist cloth; or moist cloth towels.
Get a tetanus shot. Burns are susceptible to tetanus. If your last shot was more than five years ago, your doctor may recommend a tetanus shot booster.