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How to Properly Treat a Serious Burn

Even small burns can be painful and expose you to risk of infection if not properly treated. More severe burns are also at risk of infection and scarring but can have more serious consequences, such as shock if not properly treated. Treating burns quickly can reduce the amount of damage sustained in an accident, and can possibly save an individual’s life. Learn more about treating burns below.

First-Degree Burns

First-Degree burns are the most common type of burn injury. They often come from touching hot surfaces like a pan in an oven, or from brief exposure to flames or embers. These burns affect the first layer of skin only. Treating minor burns takes only a few simple steps.

  1. Cool the burn. Stop the spread of the burn by holding the affected area under cool, running water or immerse in cool water until the pain subsides. A cold compress can be used if water isn’t available.
  2. Protect the area. Cover the burned area loosely with a sterile, non-adhesive bandage. Applying butter or ointments can cause infection, and should be avoided.
  3. Treat the pain. Administer over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin), naproxen sodium (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) according to directions.
  4. Seek medical care if necessary. If the wound shows signs of infection (oozing, redness, increased pain or swelling, or fever), pain worsens, or the redness and pain last for more than a few hours, you may need to seek medical care.

Second-Degree Burns

Second-degree burns affect the top two layers of skin. These burns are more severe and require more intense treatment, including:

  1. Cool the burn. Immerse the burn in cool water or use a cold compress for 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t apply ice, which can cause further damage. You also should not apply ointments or butter to the wound.
  2. Protect the burn. Cover the area loosely with a sterile, non-stick bandage and secure with gauze or tape.
  3. Prevent shock. Unless the person’s injury prevents it, lay the victim flat, with their feet elevated about 12 inches. If you’re able, elevate the burned area above the heart as well. Cover the person with a coat or blanket.
  4. See a doctor. A doctor can test the severity of the burn, prescribe antibiotics and pain medications, and administer a tetanus shot if required.

Third-Degree Burns

Third-Degree burns are the most severe and are life threatening. Immediate action is required to treat these burns.

  1. Call 911. Third-degree burns will require emergency medical care.
  2. Protect the burn. Cover loosely with a sterile, non-stick bandage or a clean sheet for larger areas. Burned fingers and toes need to be separated with dry, sterile dressings. Do not apply ointments, butter, or water to the burned areas, as this can increase the risk of infection.
  3. Prevent shock. If possible, lay the individual flat, elevate the feet 12 inches, and elevate the burn above the victim’s heart. Cover the person with a blanket or coat. If the burn affected the airway, do not place a pillow under the head, as this can close the airway. If the burn affects the face, have the individual sit up. Monitor the victim’s pulse and breathing for signs of shock until help arrives.
  4. Seek emergency treatment. Emergency medical personnel will most likely administer oxygen and fluids, and treat the burn.

For All Burns

Call 911 if:

  • The victim is an infant or elderly
  • Burns are sustained on the hands, feet, face, or genitals
  • The burn blister is larger than 2 inches or oozes
  • The skin is leathery or charred looking, and has white, brown, or black patches
  • The burn penetrates all layers of the skin

All burns need to be stopped immediately. Stop the burning by putting out the fire (smother the flames, help the victim to “stop, drop, and roll”) and removing the person from contact with hot water, surfaces, steam, or other materials. Remove smoldering material and burned clothing. Cut or tear around any fabric sticking to the wound. After removing the individual from further exposure to burns, remove restrictive clothing and jewelry. Burns swell quickly.

If you have suffered severe injuries from an accident, contact the San Antonio catastrophic injury attorneys at the Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C. to start yourfree consultation.