First Aid for Burns and Scalds

A burn is the damage caused to skin and deeper body structures by heat (flame, scald, contact with electricity), chemical agents or radiation. The main risk in the early phase of burn injury is shock, especially in children. Always monitor major burn victims for the development of shock and call for early emergency medical assistance. 

Treatment for Scalds

  1. Immediately flood the burn area with cold water (under a tap or hose – low pressure) for up to 20 minutes to limit tissue damage.
  2. If no water is readily available, remove clothing immediately as clothing soaked with hot liquids retains heat.
  3. Evaluate how serious the scald is and call for EMS if necessary for transport to medical aid.

Treatment for Flame Burns

  1. Smother the flames with a coat or blanket, get the casualty on to the floor or ground, that is, Stop, Drop and Roll.
  2. Prevent the victim from running if their clothing is on fire. 
  3. If water is available, immediately cool the burn area with cold water (under a tap or hose – low pressure) for up to 20 minutes. If no water is available, remove smoldering clothing (if it is not stuck to the skin) but avoid pulling clothing across the burnt face.
  4. Cover the burn area with a loose, clean, dry cloth (pillow-case, handkerchief, sheet) to prevent contamination.
  5. Do not break blisters. Do not remove clothing that is stuck to the injury. Do not apply lotions, ointments, creams or powders – these make the assessment of a burn difficult. 6. Evaluate how serious the burn is and call EMS for transport without delay to hospital.

Burns to the Airway

If the face or front of the trunk is burnt, there could be burns to the airway – there is a risk of swelling of the air passage, leading to breathing difficulties. Medical assessment is essential because breathing difficulties may develop hours or days later.

Electrical Burns

Electric burns can be more severe than they first appear, with extensive damage to deeper tissues. They frequently show “entry” and “exit” burns at the point of contact. In the management of electrical accident casualties, the priorities are:

  1. Check for “Danger” & call for EMS/Rescue
  2. Turn off the electricity supply if possible.
  3. Avoid any direct contact with the skin of the casualty or any conducting material touching the casualty until he is disconnected
  4. Once the area is safe, check if the victim is breathing normally. If not, commence CPR. 
  5. If the victim is conscious, treat any burns or other injuries.

Chemical Burns

  1. Flood the affected area with water for 20 – 30 minutes.
  2. Remove contaminated clothing.
  3. If possible, identify the chemical for possible subsequent neutralization.
  4. Call for EMS and contact the local poison control center. 
  5. Avoid contact with the chemical.

There are special First Aid measures for some corrosive chemicals. Where they are used regularly, specific information should be provided for the management of accidental burns.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

You may also like...

First aid links

Leave a Reply