CARE FOR MINOR TO MAJOR BURN INJURIES
Burns cause to one or multiple layers of skin and flesh by external sources such as heat or chemicals, and range in severity from minor to major. The level of severity is denoted by the “degree,” with each degree noting a higher level of damage starting at first degree and moving as far as the fourth degree. Understanding and identifying burns properly will increase your chances of successful treatment and effective healing.
TYPES OF BURNS
- First-Degree or superficial burns are identified by pain, redness, minor swelling and an absence of blistering.
- Second-Degree burns produce a slight thickness of the skin and may include blistering, indicating damage has been done to the underlying layers of skin.
- Third-Degree burns feature leathery, waxen skin and are commonly accompanied by numbness due to full damage to the dermis and surrounding nerves.
- Fourth-degree burns have extended past the skin layers and into the flesh, causing charring and irreparable damage.
BURN AND WOUND TREATMENT AT HOME
For the majority of burns, it is strongly advised to seek immediate medical assistance. However, for superficial burns that do not exceed three inches in diameter, the victim may be reasonably capable of treating the burn from home. When handling a minor burn, it is important you follow specific steps:
- Thoroughly wash hands using antibacterial soap
- Run cool, not cold, water over the wounded area to reduce pain and swelling
- Use a mild soap and water to cleanse affected area
- Apply an antibiotic ointment if there is no opening of the skin
- Wrap the affected area loosely with sterile gauze to avoid agitation
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ASSISTANCE FOR A BURN WOUND
Regarding second degree burns or higher, it should be left to your medical care provider to administer appropriate treatment. When released from medical care, it is a good idea to ask what can be done to facilitate better wound healing in the recovery process. These steps may include the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and pain and regular cleaning and reapplication of the prescribed wound dressings.
- Second-degree burns require medical care if the burn(s) affect a widespread area of the face, hands, buttocks, groin or feet. Otherwise, most second-degree burns can be treated by running cool water over the affected area for 15 minutes, taking over-the-counter pain medication (as needed) and applying antibiotic cream to the blisters.
- A third-degree burn requires immediate medical attention. Surgical, medical and other treatments may be necessary to help this type of wound heal properly. About 85 percent of burns are treatable in an outpatient facility.
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