First Aid for Burns and Scalds


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What are burns

Damage to the skin or deeper tissues caused by sun, hot liquids, fire, electricity or chemicals. Its actually very common with 1. 5 m cases per year in Nigeria and for mild cases self diagonsable. The degree of severity of most burns is based on the size and depth of the burn. Electrical burns, however, are more difficult to diagnose because they’re capable of causing significant injury beneath the skin without showing any signs of damage on the surface.

Symptoms range from a feeling of minor discomfort to a life-threatening emergency, depending on the size and depth (degree) of the burn. Sunburn and small scalds can often be treated at home. Deep or widespread burns and chemical or electrical burns need immediate medical care, often at specialised burn units. some burns are minor injuries you can treat at home. Others cause lasting damage to your skin, muscles, and bones and require long-term medical care.

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The type of burn you have depends on what caused it, as well as how severely your skin has been hurt.

Common Causes of Burns

Open flames are one of the most common reasons that people get burned, but there are many other causes. They include: Friction burns. When a hard object rubs off some of your skin, you have what’s called a friction burn. It’s both an abrasion (scrape) and a heat burn. These are common in motorcycle and bike accidents.

Carpet burn is another type of friction burn. Cold burns. Also called frostbite” cold burns cause damage to your skin by freezing it. You can get frostbite by being outside in freezing temperatures. It can also happen when your skin comes into direct contact with something very cold for a prolonged period of time.

Thermal burns. Touching a very hot object raises the temperature of your skin to the point that your skin cells start dying. Very hot metals, scalding liquids, and flames all cause thermal burns. Steam can, too.

Radiation burns. Sunburn is a type of radiation burn. Other sources of radiation, like X-rays or radiation therapy to treat cancer, can also cause these.

Chemical burns. Strong acids, solvents or detergents that touch your skin can cause it to burn.

Electrical burns. If you come into contact with an electrical current, you can get this type of burn.

How bad (degree)

First-degree. These burns only affect the outer layer of your skin. A mild sunburn’s one example. Your skin may be red and painful, but you won’t have any blisters Long-term damage is rare.

Second-degree. If you have this type of burn, the outer layer of your skin as well the dermis – the layer underneath – has been damaged. Your skin will be bright red, swollen, and may look shiny and wet. You’ll see blisters, and the burn will hurt to the touch. If you have a superficial second-degree burn, only part of your dermis is damaged. You probably won’t have scarring. A deep partial thickness burn is more severe. It may leave a scar or cause a permanent change in the color of your skin.

Third-degree. Sometimes called a “full thickness burn,” this type of injury destroys two full layers of your skin. Instead of turning red, it may appear black, brown, white or yellow. It won’t hurt because this type of burn damages nerve endings.

Fourth-degree. This is the deepest and most severe of burns. They’re potentially life-threatening. These burns destroy all layers of your skin, as well as your bones, muscles, and tendons. Sometimes, the degree of burn you have will change. This can happen if your damaged skin keeps spreading and the injury becomes deeper.


First make sure you are safe. (In case of a spreading fire) put the burnt area under cool running water for at least 20 minutes, but don’t use ice. use a hydrogel for first aid if water is not available. remove any clothing near the burn that is not stuck to it. remove any jewellery near the burn if that is easy to do. take painkillers like paracetamol and anti-inflammatory tablets. If it’s a chemical burn, take off any contaminated clothing. For dry chemicals, brush off the chemicals before putting the burnt area under water. If the burn is to your arm or leg, raise it whenever possible to reduce swelling.

Some things to avoid: don’t put a child with burns into a bath full of cold waterif blisters develop don’t pop them, and visit your doctor in case they need to be removeddon’t use any ointments or creams on a burn. They seal heat in and cause more damage.

Most small burns will heal themselves in 10-12 days. If the burn does not have any blisters or broken skin, such as sunburn, a simple moisturiser such as sorbolene is the best treatment. For all other burns seek medical treatment for appropriate dressings. If things get worse, or if you are not up to date with tetanus injections, see your doctor.

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