Treating Skin That’s Singed
Bring temperature down, but don’t use ice unless the injury is slight
Burns are classified as first, second, or third degree by how deeply the skin is damaged. It’s not always easy to tell how serious a burn is at first inspection. Electrical burns frequently look small, for instance, but they may be much deeper than suspected. You can’t always tell how bad a burn is from the pain, either, because really serious burns may destroy tissue nerve endings, leaving a victim with no feeling in the burn area. And burns whose severity is underestimated may end up needlessly infected. Here are the rules of the road when it comes to burns, from the American Red Cross:
First-Degree burn: A first-degree burn is on the skin’s surface. It turns the skin red and dry, may cause a swell, and can be quite painful. The damage should heal with a week without leaving permanent scars.
Second-degree burn: A second-degree burn affects several top layers of skin, and not only reddens the skin, but leaves blisters that may pop and leak clear fluid, making the skin look wet. Pain swelling are common with such burns, and the burned skin sometimes appears blotchy. Healing usually takes three to four weeks.
Third-degree burn: A third-degree burn not only destroys every skin layer but goes deep enough to destroy other underlying tissue such as fat, muscles, nerves, and even bones sometimes. The pain can range from very intense to relatively minor if nerve endings are destroyed. Unless quickly treated the risk of infection not only soars. But fluid loss can destroy the body’s thermostat and impair a victim’s breathing, making the situation potentially life-threatening.
Do’s and Don’ts for burns
To help you make the right first aid decisions when dealing with burns, the American Red Cross recommends the following:
- Do cool a burn by flushing it with water.
- Do cover the burn with a dry, clean covering, such as a sterile dressing.
- Do keep the victim comfortable and keep him or her from getting chilled or overheated.
- Don’t apply ice directly to any burn unless it is very minor.
- Don’t touch a burn with anything except a clean covering.
- Don’t remove pieces of cloth that stick to the burned area.
- Don’t try to clean a severe burn.
- Don’t break blisters.
- Don’t use ointment on a severe burn. Although an antibiotic ointment can be used on a minor burn, ointments may exacerbate more severe burns by sealing in heat without providing pain relief.