October 3, 2016

First Aid For Burns

Burns occur when the skin is exposed to heat or chemicals, for example fire, sunburn, acid, bleach or garden chemicals. Scalds happen when the skin is exposed to hot fluids, for example boiling water, steam or hot oil.

Burns and scalds are usually divided into three categories depending on how much damage they cause to the skin and underlying tissues.

  • First-degree or minor burns are superficial and affect only the outer layer of the skin making it sore.
  • Second-degree or partial thickness burns extend below the surface of the skin. The skin looks raw and blisters form.
  • Third-degree or full thickness burns damage the entire layer of the skin and underlying tissues to affect nerves, muscle and fat. The skin looks pale, waxy and charred.

Burns and scalds occur more in young children than in older children and adults; and they almost always occur as a result of accidents. (In my case as a child, I was curious about the steam and put my hand into running hot water). Children’s skin are thinner than adults and what is warm to an adult could be very hot to a baby or infant. Other things that can cause burns in children either because they are unaware of the dangers or are curious include contact with cigarettes, matches, cigarette lighters, open fires, ovens and cookers, irons and many other hot surfaces and hot liquids.

All burns and scalds cause intense pain at the site of the injury.

  • Most accidents involving burns and scalds can be prevented by a few simple safety precautions.
  • Keep a close eye on your children and instruct your nanny or caregiver to do the same.
  • Ensure there is guard around the cooker if possible and place pots and pans on the back rings and turn the handles so they cannot be pulled over.
  • Place hot drinks out of the reach of children and avoid passing hot drinks over the heads of children.
  • Keep household bleach, cleaning fluids and other chemicals in a locked cupboard, and use child-resistant tops on bottles.
  • Keep children well away from open fires. Keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children.
  • Always have an exit planned in care of a fire and practice it.


First Aid For Burns

First Aid for BurnsMinor burns:

  • Run cold running water over the burn for 20 minutes. If there is a break in the skin, i.e. a wound, carefully clean away any dirt from that area of skin while the wound is still underwater.
  • Do not apply any creams, lotions, butter or fat and do not use any adhesive dressings.
  • Cover the area with a clean plastic bag or cling film to keep the area clean and help avoid infection.

Fortunately, most burns caused in the home are minor and will heal within a few days. Simple pain killers such as paracetamol may be used for pain relief.


Severe burns and scalds: the priority is to cool the injury and seek medical advice as soon as cooling has begun, but this should not delay transmission of your baby or infant to hospital.

  • Bathe the area in cold water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Do not remove anything sticking to the burn, do not touch the burn or burst blisters.
  • Do not apply any creams, lotions, butter or fat to the burn.
  • Remove any jewelry and burnt clothing from the injured area provided they are not sticking to the burn.
  • Wrap the burnt area in a clean plastic bag or cover with cling film to prevent infection as a temporary measure while you are waiting for medical help to arrive or as you go to your local hospital.


Chemical burns:

  • if the burn is caused by a household chemical, immediately brush off powder or rinse the area if liquid in cold running water for at least 20 minutes.  
  • If the substance is swallowed and your child develops difficulty breathing or signs of shock, lay your child on the floor, loosen any tight clothing, check that your child’s airway is clear and be prepared to do CPR.
  • Take along the chemical container to the hospital so that they know what they are dealing with.


When to Seek Medical Advice

All second- and third- degree burns carry the risk of shock so the casualty needs to go to the hospital. All second-degree burns and even bad first-degree burns should be seen and assessed by a doctor as soon as possible. Second-degree burns covering a large area, or burns to the face, hands or across joints, and all third-degree burns require hospital treatment.


Useful Tips

  • Take particular care when children are around fire, hot liquids, cookers, barbecues, radiators, electric fires, irons and anything else that can burn them. Best thing is to keep them away.
  • Do not use anything on a burn. These includes butter, aloe vera, toothpaste etc.
  • Keep an up-to-date first aid box at home – buy one from the Levande store on Jumia.com.





About the author 


First Aid by Levande is a service offered by Levande Healthcare Ltd. We want to give you the confidence to care and act when seconds count.

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