There are a number of ways that burns and scalds can be sustained, with some burns being severe and life-threatening.
Burns can be caused by: Thermal (Dry), Thermal (Wet), Electrical, Chemical, Radiation, or Friction.
1. STOP THE BURNING PROCESS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE
Stop moving immediately. Running will fan the flames and make the fire worse.
Fall to the ground, covering your face with your hands, and keeping your face as far from the flames as possible.
Roll back and forth, again and again. Keep rolling until the flames are extinguished.
2. CHECK THE SEVERITY OF THE BURN
First-degree (superficial) burns:
First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin. The burn site will appear red and dry, but with no blisters present. There will usually be an increase or decrease in normal skin colour.
Second-degree (partial thickness) burns:
Second-degree burns involve the epidermis (outermost) and part of the dermis (innermost), layer of skin. The burn site will be red and may have blisters and swelling.
Third-degree (full thickness) burns:
A third-degree burn damages the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and the inner layer of skin (dermis). The burn site may appear white or charred, with watery fluid possibly leaking from the site. Blisters may form around the burn site, but not directly on it.
Always call an ambulance for any partial or full thickness burns, chemical burns, suspected internal electrical burns, or any deep burns larger than 5% of the body area.
3. REMOVE CLOTHING AND JEWELLERY FROM THE AREA
Quickly remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt area of skin, as they can trap heat and restrict blood flow to the area if it starts to swell. However, do NOT try to remove anything that is stuck to the burnt skin as this could cause more damage.
4. COOL THE BURN WITH COOL OR LUKEWARM WATER
Cool the burned area with clean water from a clean container or a tap continuously for 20 minutes or more. During this time, only apply the water to the burned area. Keep the patient warm with a blanket to keep the rest of the casualty warm while the burn is being cooled. Maintaining overall body warmth will prevent hypothermia, (a condition where body temperature drops below 35C/95F). This is a risk if you are cooling a large burnt area, particularly in young children and elderly people.
5. DRESS THE BURN
Once you are sure that the burnted area has cooled efficiently, loosely apply a hydrogel burn dressing if available. If not, apply kitchen cling film over the burn to help prevent infection. Do NOT use ice, creams oil or other substances. They will not help the wound to heal and they may cause infection or more damage.
6. WHEN TO GO TO A&E:
ALWAYS – With any of the following: Large or deep burns, e.g. if the burns are larger than the casualty’s hand. Any burns that affect the casualty’s airway. Burns of any size that cause white or charred skin (third-degree burns). Any burns that cause blisters (second and third-degree burns). All chemical burns. All electrical burns (as the casualty could be suffering from internal burning). Any incidents involving children, the elderly, or anyone with an existing medical condition.
If someone has inhaled, gasped, or breathed in smoke or fumes, they should also seek medical attention. Some symptoms may be delayed and can include coughing, a sore throat, difficulty breathing or facial burns.
7. CHEMICAL BURNS
A. Before approaching any casualty that has chemical burns, you must first protect yourself from harm by wearing the appropriate Respiratory and Personal Protective Equipment (RPE and PPE).
B. Call 999 if the burn is severe. The decision to call the emergency services needs to be based on the severity of the situation.
C. Remove any contaminated clothing from the casualty; using scissors if necessary. Be careful not further contaminate any part of the casualty’s body while you are removing their clothing.
D. Shower the contaminated area with clean water until the ambulance arrives. Ensure that the water does not spread the contamination.
E. Try to identify the chemical that has caused the burn; this will save time and help healthcare professionals to decide on treatment. could help healthcare professionals treat the burn.
F. Go to A&E if an ambulance has not been called.
First Aid for Burns Quiz
A short quiz to test your knowledge of First Aid for Burns
All information is for guidance only and correct at time of publication.