Burns – What to do …

Burn treatment is part of first aid that everyone is likely to deal with at some point.  Burns also attract some of the strangest and truly harmful home remedy and old wives tale advice.

When a burn is sustained, the area is cooking.  The most important first step is to get the damaged area under cold or cool water to start reducing the temperature and prevent further damage.  Run the affected area under the cold tap. If you don’t have access to a tap, the area can be placed in a bucket or bowl of water. Any clean cold water is fine.  Cool the area in this way for 10-20 minutes Then apply burnshield according to the package instructions. Limbs can be placed inside the foil packaging. Other areas can have the product applied and then the foil used to cover the area and bandaged into place.  The foil helps to stop the area drying out and the bandage sticking into the wound. Cling wrap can be used if you don’t have a bandage. If the area is large or the burn is deep (some parts of it have blisters, mottled in appearance, charred or leathery) then call an Emergency Medical Service such as Community Medics – 087 230 0404.  

Where someone is burnt by electricity, switch the power off at the mains before you touch the patient and then treat as for any other burn. In this instance, call Community Medics immediately due to the risk of a cardiac disturbance.  If someone is burned with cleaning products or other chemicals, rinse off very well (at least 20 minutes) to remove the product in addition to cooling the area and ensure that you are not contaminated by the same product. Water cooling and burnshield and calling for emergency medical help are still the same treatment for these types of burns.  

Skin is our biggest organ, and burns damage skin and nerves.  Skin regulates our temperature, keeps fluids inside of us (keeps us hydrated) and is a barrier to infection getting into our bodies.  The deeper a burn is or the larger its surface area, the worse the outcome is likely to be. Burns are also particularly dangerous for the very young and the elderly.  

Things that can cause harm and will not help with a burn are ice, butter, toothpaste, borrie (curry powder/ turmeric), essential oils, honey, putting the damaged area closer to the heat source to pull the burn out.  Now that you know better, it is up to you to teach your relatives and friends and to take charge of a situation if someone is burned.

The first step in burn treatment is burn prevention.  Don’t use propellants for braai fires, replace paraffin stoves with gel type stoves, place guards around fire places to keep children away and don’t let granny sit too close with her blanket or put a candle near a curtain.

People can also suffer burns to their respiratory tract, you may see singed nose hairs and a burnt nose or burnt skin or soot  around the mouth. One of the dangers is that swelling of the respiratory tract will occur which makes it impossible for them to breathe,.  Always immediately call for emergency medical help.

The severity of burns is determined by how deep they go (superficial, partial thickness or full thickness) and the surface area they cover.  Apart from really small burns that are superficial only, a burn may have areas including all three types. It is important not to pop any blisters as they are preventing infection.  Although you may have heard that serious burns damage the nerves and someone won’t feel pain, the reality is that the person may still feel extreme pain as it won’t be the whole area burned so deeply.  It is important to seek emergency medical help for anything beyond small superficial burns due to pain and the serious risks that burns pose