In this fast paced lifestyle, there are more chances of burn injuries occurring at home and at office, which is mostly influenced by the work environment. For most people burn injuries would mean touching hot surfaces or with an open flame, but there are many other sources of burn injuries that can be quite dangerous. These minute moments can turn into hazardous situations with life-long effects.
Here are the types of burn injury their main causes: Thermal, Chemical & Electrical injuries.
#1 Thermal Injuries:
Thermal burn is categorised into two types:
a) Dry Thermal injuries: Dry Thermal injuries include flames, very hot objects, and radiation heat. In such cases, burnt clothing or any objects, stuck to the burn location should not be removed.
b) Wet thermal injuries: Wet thermal injuries generally occur because of steam and hot liquids. They can also be caused by liquids like boiling water, coffee, tea, soup, oil, tar, or molten liquids. If it has been poured in, the cloth has to be removed very carefully.
For Thermal burns – Remove rings, bracelets, watches, etc. from the affected area, as it may cause tightness or swelling.
#2 Chemical Injuries:
Chemical injuries are alkalis, hydrocarbons, phenols, industrial cleaners, solvents, degreasing agents, and petrol. These burn injuries are caused by tissue reaction to noxious substances, and the amount of tissue damage will depend on the chemical and exposure time. A large amount of flowing water is required to wash the liquid chemical. Use warm water for irrigation to help protect the temperature of the patient. If possible, remove everything that the patient is wearing.
For chemical burns – Brush the chemical off the skin if it is in a dry form. Then wash the burn with lots and lots of water. Do not attempt to neutralise chemicals.
#3 Electrical Injuries:
These injuries are categorised into two sources: alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). When electricity passes through the body after contact with an electrical conductor, this burn will present along with deep tissue destruction and the injuries are most common with high tension current.
Cardiac complications are common in an electrical burn injury, and we should make sure that the power supply is disconnected from the mains before approaching the patient for safety reasons.
For electrical burns –
- Disconnect the victim from the source of electricity before attempting first aid.
- If the person has been injured by a low-voltage source (220-240 volts, domestic electricity supply) then remove the person from the electrical source, using a non-conductive material such as a wooden stick or wooden chair.
- Do not approach a person connected to a high-voltage source.
There are various degrees and types of fire burns, and they have their own set of symptoms and treatment methods. Here is a quick study on how to recognize the different types of burns, and understand what their treatment is.
The depth of burns can be categorised as:
1 Superficial burn (1st Degree):
Superficial burns are the least serious burns because here only the outer layer of skin is burned. Usually it takes about three to six days to heal. Common superficial burns are sunburns or burns from hot drinks like hot water, coffee, tea etc. The common symptoms are reddishness in skin, slight swelling and slight pain. Usually superficial burns do not require any medical attention from doctors.
- Hold the burn under cool running water for several minutes.
- Depending on the severity of the burn cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick bandage to avoid infection.
2. Partial Thickness Burn (2nd Degree):
Partial thickness burn occurs when the first and second layers of skin are burned. It is a bit serious and immediate doctor attention should be given. The symptoms are blister, swelling, red and blotchy appearance. The Safety Council suggests that if the burn is no larger than 3 inches in diameter, treat it as a minor/first degree burn. If it is larger than 3 inches in diameter then please follow the following treatment.
- Soak the burn in cool water for over 10 minutes. If the burn is on the back or chest, gently pour cool water over it using a bucket or a container.
- If the burn is severe, keep soaking the burn in cool water until you get to a doctor.
- Do not put cloth directly on the wound because the cloth will latch onto it, and it will make the wound and the pain worse.
- Avoid breaking the blisters, and immediately get to a doctor who can more safely remove the charred clothing.
3. Full Thickness Burn (3rd Degree):
Full thickness burn occur when all layers of the skin are burned and thereby causing permanent damage to the skin, tissue, muscle and bone. This is an emergency situation and immediate doctor treatment is needed or it may otherwise lead to death. The symptoms are charred skin, whitening of skin and difficulty in breathing.
- If they are on fire, drop them and roll them and help extinguishing the fire by smothering it with a blanket.
- If the victim is not breathing, use the CPR method to restart their breathing.
- Periodically check their vital signs like pulse rate and blood pressure.
- Call an ambulance immediately and alert this as an emergency medical situation.
What to avoid?
For all types of burns, we should follow the below points while treating the patients.
- Never try to remove any clothing that is stuck to the burnt skin; wrap it in a sterile dressing with a clean cloth.
- Burn injuries that are more than 3 inches larger in diameter should not be treated with water. Use cool, wet compresses. Also, avoid using ice cubes on a burn.
- Don’t put ointments on a severe third degree burn, as it may cause the skin to fall off and increase infection. Never ever attempt to break the blisters on the skin.
Learning first aid for burn injuries will give us the confidence to treat all types of burn injuries and methods on how to handle the patients when such emergency arises. These methods will also help us minimize the negative effects and help the patients get a successful recovery.