Everything to Learn About Burns Before It’s Too Late
Seasoned doctors, parents and teachers will tell you that accidents can happen in mere seconds, and they can happen to anyone. When my 17-month-old daughter reached up and pulled a cup of steaming hot tea all over the left side of her face, I realized just how unprepared I was for this kind of emergency — and my husband is a surgeon!
It was immediately clear that this was serious, and I only had a basic idea of what to do: Run cold water over her and get her to an emergency room. It turned out that she had second-degree burns on the left side of her face and her left arm. In order to avoid this situation in the future (and help other parents in the process), I did some research about simple safety tips to try and avoid burns, as well as how to prepare for them.
Dr. Samar Rachid, DO, family medicine physician at Scripps in San Diego and author of the blog, "Wellness Preserved," weighed in, offering important safety tips for you and your family to review in order to avoid and prepare for a burn emergency.
Keep Kids Out of the Kitchen as Much as Possible
Kitchens are one of the most dangerous areas in a house for a child because they are packed full of knives, fire, gas — all things that can cause extreme bodily harm or even death.
Keep little ones away from the kitchen by installing safety gates.
Keep Hot Liquids and Other Flammables Out of Arm’s Reach
Make sure hot liquids, pots and pans are kept toward the back burners instead of the front burners, so little arms can’t reach them and pull them down.
Test Bathwater and Never Leave Children Unsupervised in the Bathroom
Scorching-hot bathwater is one of the most frequent causes of pediatric burns, according to Dr. Rachid.
While testing and supervision can help avoid any issues, it’s also important to remember to set household water heaters to less than 120° Fahrenheit (or 48.9° Celsius).
Keep Matches, Firecrackers and Gasoline Out of Reach
Yes, keep matches, firecrackers and gasoline out of reach and preferably out of sight. If children can see them, then they may find a way to get to those items.
(The same goes for guns.)
Know the Types of Burns and the Care They Require
Depending on the type of burn, you may be able to treat it at home or need to go to a hospital for immediate treatment.
While it is helpful to have a basic understanding of what the different burns look like, seek medical attention immediately to prevent deformity and/or disability if you’re worried the burn may go beyond a first-degree burn.
First-Degree Burns (Superficial)
First-degree burns (superficial) affect only the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis.
They are painful and can turn red and even have swelling, but these types of burns do not blister.
Second-Degree Burns (Partial Thickness)
Second-degree burns (partial thickness) are burns that have gone past the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and reached the layer underneath (dermis). These types of burns produce blisters. Depending on the size of the second-degree burn, where the burn is located on the body, and the age and physical condition of the burn victim can also determine the severity of the burn.
Second-degree burns are burns that are at least 5- to 7-centimeters wide; however, if they are on the hands, face, feet, genitals, buttocks or are over a major joint area, they can be smaller and can be more serious, requiring victims to seek out medical attention immediately.
Third-Degree Burns (Full Thickness)
Third-degree burns go past the dermis, epidermis and reach the subcutaneous tissue, also known as the hypodermis, which includes fat and connective tissues.
The burn area may look white or charred, and victims should be rushed to the nearest emergency room.
Fourth-degree burns cause damage to the bones, muscles and tendons. The burn goes so deep that the nerve endings are destroyed, and thus the victim may not feel any sensation.
If you suspect that the burn is a fourth-degree burn, you should rush the victim to the nearest emergency room for immediate medical attention.
Electrical burns may not look as bad as other kinds of more obvious burns, but they can be quite serious. Someone who has an electrical burn needs hospital attention right away.
If you see that someone has been injured by a domestic electricity supply (i.e., 220 to 240 volts), switch off the power or move the person away from the electrical source with something that won’t conduct electricity, such as a wooden broom or spatula.
Stop the Burning Process
The right kind of treatment can help limit damage to the burn area. So, learning specific first-aid treatments can come in super handy.
Start with simply knowing how to stop the burning process. This often requires you to remove the person from the burning area and throw water or a wool blanket on the victim to put the flames out.
Remove Items Near the Burn Area
It's important to remove clothing or accessories near the burn area, and this includes children’s diapers.
However, don’t remove any clothing that is stuck to the burnt skin because you could end up taking off the skin, which would make the injury even worse. If you are worried you may further injure the victim, let a medical professional handle this.
Cool the Burn Area
If you can, run lukewarm to cool water over the burn area for 15 to 20 minutes. Never use ice, iced water, home remedies, creams or greasy materials like butter.
Burn packs also may not be appropriate depending on the severity of the burn, for example, if the burn has broken the skin.
Get Medical Help Right Away
Seek medical assistance immediately if the person with the burn has any of the following: other injuries, is going into shock, is pregnant, is more than 60-years-old, is under five years old, or has a medical condition or a weakened immune system.
Treating First-Degree (Superficial) Burns
First-degree (superficial) burns can be managed with topical therapies, such as lotions (Aquaphor), honey, aloe vera or antibiotic ointments. Pain from first-degree burns can be treated with over-the-counter medicine like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Second-degree burns (partial-thickness) might be treated with topical silver sulfadiazine, but make sure to see a doctor if the burn is larger than 5 to 7 centimeters or is on one of the aforementioned sensitive areas of the body.
Follow Up With a Doctor
If you are worried at all that the burn may go beyond first-degree (superficial), then go see a doctor, and be careful with home remedies.
You may have a family member or friend who swears by putting sour cream or butter on a burn, but if it goes beyond a first-degree burn, please leave the treatment to a medical professional.