Burns first aid

Burns are a common injury among children, often occurring during everyday situations such as cooking, bathing and even playing outdoors. As parents we know burns can happen in a split second- which is why it is so important to know the correct first aid. When applied correctly, burns first aid can minimise the severity of injury, promote healing and even reduce the risk of infection.

In this blog post, we’ll cover essential first aid treatment for burns giving you the knowledge to respond effectively in case of an emergency.

Is it important to understand the severity of a burn?

Yes it can actually be super helpful! Identifying what kind of burn your child has sustained will tell you what type of medical care they need.

Burns are categorised into three levels with the depth of burn determining the severity. No need to remember this off the top of your head, just remember to bookmark this page.

Superficial burns (Previously known as first degree)

Superficial burns affect the first layer of the skin (also known as the epidermis). These burns are considered minor and can usually be treated at home. They may cause redness, pain and/or minor swelling however will have no blisters or open skin. Most cases of minor sunburn are considered to be a superficial burn. 

Partial thickness burns (Previously known as second degree)

Partial thickness burns affect the first and second layer of skin (the epidermis and dermis). These burns cause blisters, swelling and moderate to severe pain and often require medical attention. Ever grabbed a hot tray from the oven and noticed a blister appear quickly, yep that was a partial thickness burn.

Full thickness burns (Previously known as third degree)

Full thickness burns are the most severe type of burn, causing damage to all three layers of the skin (dermis, epidermis and hypodermis) they may even extend into underlying tissues. These types of burns often appear deep, charred, white, or waxy. Regardless of size these burns are considered a medical emergency and always require urgent medical attention.

So what should I do if my child has been burnt?

Regardless of the severity of a burn, the first aid is always the same! We want you to remove, cool, cover and get help.

Remove: Remove all clothing not stuck to the burn, if clothing is stuck you should cut around these parts and leave them to be removed by hospital staff. You should also remove jewellery as it conducts heat and can become stuck when burns swell. Don’t forget to remove a child’s nappy. Nappies can hold up to a litre of liquid and if a child has poured hot liquid onto themselves it may travel down into the nappy causing further burns to the genitals.

Cool: As quickly as possible place the burn under cool running water for a minimum 20 minutes. Water from a cold tap is perfect but do not use cold water from the fridge or ice water to cool a burn. 

Twenty minutes of cooling under running water is the single most important thing you can do for a burn. In fact if you call an ambulance for a burn we will insist on finishing the twenty minutes of cooling before transporting to hospital. This is because 20 minutes of cooling reduces pain, reduces swelling, reduces the risk of infection, promotes healing and prevents further tissue damage, pretty amazing right. 

Cool tip- It is important to reduce the risk of hypothermia when cooling a burn. To do this try to only irrigate the injured area with cool water and consider wrapping the rest of the person’s skin in a blanket or similar to keep them warm.

Cover:  After cooling the burn you need to cover it with a clean non-stick dressing to reduce the risk of infection. Our dressing of choice is cling wrap as it is completely non-stick. Don’t wrap the cling wrap around a burn because it may swell, instead place the glad wrap on top of a burn. If you don’t have cling wrap or a non-stick dressing you could use a clean wet cloth. 

Cool tip- Avoid using hydrogel dressings or fluffy materials such as cotton balls that may stick to broken skin.

Get Help: After determining the severity of the burn you should be able to determine what type of help you will need.

If the burn has not caused any blistering or open skin it can usually be managed at home. Consider providing your child with pain relief and monitor closely for signs of infection such as redness, swelling or pus. Remember to always trust your instinct and take your child to see a doctor if you are concerned at any time.

You should take your child to ED or call an ambulance if the burn is:

  • Partial thickness and larger than 3cm
  • Full thickness (regardless of size)
  • Affects the face, hands, or genitals
  • Suspected to be an airway burn
  • Caused by chemicals or electricity
  • Causing unmanageable pain

 If the burn does not meet any of the above criteria however the skin has blistered you should take your child to see their GP.

Burns myth-busters

  • Do not apply ice or ice water to a burn as it can further damage the skin.
  • Unless advised by a doctor you should avoid putting butter, lotions, creams or home remedies on a burn.
  • Refrain from popping blisters, as this increases the risk of infection and slows down the healing process.
  • Do not wrap a burn tightly as burns can swell restricting blood flow and impeding healing.
  • While it is best to start 20 minutes of cooling as close to the burn time as possible, burns treatment can be useful for up to 3 hours post injury
  • Cooling in running water is always more effective than stagnant water- this is because heat from a burn will increase the temperature of stagnant water making burns treatment less effective

So there you have it, everything you need to know about burns first aid. Want to learn more first aid tips and tricks? what about recognising red flag symptoms or managing general illness, time to book a course with us today!

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