The colder weather brings increased risk of burns. Hot meals, hot drinks, and heating appliances all add to the danger of a burn injury.
Burns can be caused by flames, UV radiation, hot liquids, steam, electricity, lightning and certain chemicals. All burns require immediate first aid treatment. The severity of a burn can be very deceptive. It’s critical you understand what type of burn and symptoms require immediate emergency medical treatment.
Types of burns
There are three levels of burns:
Superficial: these burns only cause damage to the first or top layer of skin. The burn site will be red and painful.
Partial-thickness: these burns cause damage to the first and second skin layers. The burn site will be red, peeling, blistered and swollen, with clear or yellow-coloured fluid leaking from the skin. The burn site is very painful.
Full-thickness: involves damage to both the first and second skin layers, plus the underlying tissue. The burn site generally appears black or charred with white exposed fatty tissue. Very deep burns may damage the underlying muscle or bone. The nerve endings are generally destroyed, so there is little or no pain at the site of the full-thickness burn. However, surrounding partial thickness burns will be very painful.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between partial and full-thickness burns. The depth of a burn is not critical in the initial treatment of burns. Instead, an assessment of the extent of the burn is more important.
To treat a burn
Remove the person from danger.
Remove any clothing if not attached to the skin
Cool the burn with cold running water for 20 minutes, but keep the person warm and look for signs of shock (pale, cold and clammy skin)
Remove jewellery or constricting items if can be done so without causing damage