Immediate First Aid Can Help Lessen Their Severity
Burns hurt, are scary and they destroy skin, which controls the amount of heat our bodies retain or release, holds in fluids and protects us from infection. Burns can be treated with simple first aid and they are the one injury that medical experts agree must be treated before medical help arrives. Immediate first aid can help lessen the severity of the burn and can help prevent scarring, disability and deformity.
There are three levels of burns. First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of the skin, causing pain, redness and swelling. Second-degree burns affect both the outer and underlying layer of skin, causing pain, redness, swelling and blistering. Third-degree burns extend into deeper tissues, causing white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb.
Treating a burn begins by stopping the burning process. Hold the burned area under cold running water for at least five minutes, or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cold water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Never put ice on a burn.
Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage to keep air off the burned skin, reduce pain and protect blistered skin. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin and do not use fluffy cotton, which may irritate the skin. Treat the pain with over-the-counter pain relievers, including aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
When treating burns, never:
- Apply ointment, butter, medications, cream, oil spray or any household remedy to a severe burn;
- Disturb blistered or dead skin; or
- Remove clothing that is stuck to the skin.
While burns on fingers and hands are usually not dangerous, burns injuring even relatively small areas of skin can develop serious complications. If you think a burn of any type is significant, apply appropriate first aid and call 9-1-1 immediately.
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