Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
Burns caused by fires, chemical exposure, sunlight, or electricity often require different levels of treatment. Burns commonly fall into three different categories of severity. Precautionary steps must be taken before attempting to treat the burn. Different treatments for burn victims range from applying ointment on minor burns to emergency care for severe cases. Healing time for burns varies depending on the extent of the condition.
Exposure to scalding water or other liquids, radiation from the sun, dangerous chemicals, faulty electricity, or house fires all cause minor to severe burns. Such injuries cause skin and tissue damage, resulting in the need for prompt medical treatment. Depending on the extent of the burn, complications may include dehydration, disfigurement, and infection.
Burn victims most likely suffer first-, second-, or third-degree burns. First-degree burns injure the epidermis, or the outer layer of the skin, and cause redness and pain. Second-degree burns affect the middle layer of the skin known as the dermis. Blisters, pain, and redness often indicate signs of a second-degree burn. Third-degree burns prove more serious because they damage not only both skin layers, but also muscles, tendons, and bones.
Smaller, minor burns may be treated at home with burn cream or ointment, but medical sources recommend also taking extra precautionary measures. Initial efforts for treating first-degree burn victims include applying a cool compress or running cool water on the site for no more than 10 minutes. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen also temporarily relieve pain and inflammation from the burn. Medical experts warn against using ice, oil, or butter because these can worsen the burn and cause infection.
Similar to first-degree burn treatment, second-degree burn victims may run cool water or apply a cool compress to the skin. To reduce the risk of serious swelling and pain, elevate burned legs, hands, or arms above the heart. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen may also be taken to alleviate pain and swelling from a second-degree burn. For blisters that form, apply bacitracin ointment to the skin to prevent infection. Any clothing that gets stuck to the skin must be removed by emergency personnel.
The first thing to do in treating third-degree burn victims is to contact emergency medical help. In the meantime, someone can assist by checking the victim’s breathing, circulation, and airway for signs of smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning. Other steps to take include running cool water over the burned area, elevating the injury above the heart, and covering the area with a clean sheet or bandage until the person arrives at the hospital.
When treating a burn victim at the hospital, doctors focus on cleaning the burned area. They also perform what is called a debridement, which involves removing dead tissues caused by the burn. Skin grafting may also be necessary for serious harm. In this process, doctors sew a piece of skin from the patient or a donor over the burned part of the body.
According to sources, severe burn victims risk developing tetanus, so the doctor may administer a tetanus shot. This is appropriate if the victim has not had a tetanus booster in more than five years. Patients also take prescription pain, antimicrobial, and antibiotic medications during the recovery process to keep away infection. With proper treatment, minor burns usually heal anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Severe burns may take several weeks or months and sometimes require plastic surgery as well as physical therapy to regain muscle or limb strength.
@Scrbblchick -- Ouch. Definitely a second-degree burn. Not fun. When I was in high school, a friend had been on a mission trip that involved a boat ride to the island. She fell asleep in the sun on the way back and her legs were exposed to the sun for about four hours. She had the worst burns I'd ever seen. I told my mom her legs looked like fried chicken or something. It was awful.
She had permission to wear shorts to class until her legs healed up. She was in the hospital for two days in Miami before she could come home. Then, she was in the hospital burn unit two more days here, so they could give her fluids and keep treating her skin. I've never seen or heard about anything like that since!
This sounds minor, but it hurt like stink. I had stopped to get a cup of coffee. I pressed the lid down when I got it from the drive through window, but as soon as I tipped the cup to take a sip, scalding hot coffee came out of a gap in the lid and poured down my chest. It *hurt!*
I was driving and when I arrived at my destination, I went to the ladies room and looked at my chest. It was red and scalded, naturally, but I had a blister about the size of a pea on the underside of my breast! I used cool compresses, but something that helped in the short term more than anything was plain old hand sanitizer! It must have been the alcohol, but I got immediate relief from the pain when I put some on. It was wonderful.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!