A burn occurs when there is a skin damage due to the exposure to heat, sunlight, electricity, chemicals or radiation. All burns are painful, even the minor ones and may lead to infection if not treated. The healing period for a minor burn is several days and may take up to weeks or months a major or serious burns.
Most of the burns are caused due to the exposure to the open flames (fire), there are other burs which require treatments and care. Let us understand more about the types of burns
Thermal burns are caused when skin comes in contact with very hot objects. When excess heat is applied on the skin, heat causes damage, death or charring of the skin cells and tissues. Few examples may be hot metals, flames, steam and scalding liquids can cause thermal burns.
Cold burns are caused when the skin is damaged due to direct contact with excess of cold for a prolonged time. It may be a very cold object or freezing temperatures. Such burns are also called frostbite.
Electrical burns are caused from electrical current when skin comes in contact with it.
Chemical Burns are caused when skin encounters direct contact with strong acids, detergents, alkalies or solvents
Radiation burns are caused due X-rays, radiation therapy (used to treat cancer) or ultra-violet rays may cause radiation burns.
Friction burns are caused when a hard object rips off skin. A scrape or abrasion. Motorcycle, bike accidents are considered as friction burns.
How deep is the burn? Degrees of burns
Based on the depth of the skin damage, or the penetration into the skin.
The burns are classified as first degree burn when only the outer layer or epidermis of the skin is damaged. Mild sunburn can be classified as first degree burn. There is no blister formed over the burn site, The burn area looks dry, red and painful. There may be skin colour change either to dark or lighter colour; change but long term tissue damage is usually rare.
When the burn site involves the epidermis and part of the dermis layer of the skin, it is called second-degree burn. The burn site may be swollen, with blisters, is painful and red colour. There are chances of permanent scar and change in colour of the skin. It is also called as ‘partial thickness burns’.
The third-degree burn involves epidermis and dermis. It is also called as ‘full thickness burns’. The third-degree burn may involve and cause damage to muscle, bones and tendon. As the nerve ending are damaged, there may not be sensation at the burn site in third-degree burn. The burn area may look charred or white colour. Third-degree burns may cause infection, disfigurement, scarring or lead to physical disabilities.
Treatment for skin burns
The healing period is short for minor wounds. The serious burns would need assessment followed by treatment. The aim of burns treatment is to control pain, prevent infection, reduce the risk of scarring and restore normal functioning of an individual. The treatment protocol may include wound dressing, medications, therapy or surgery if required.
The medical treatment for major burn may involve medications for pain, anxiety, antibiotics to fight infections, burn creams, ointments, tetanus injection. Additional IV fluids may be given to prevent dehydration and organ failure. Wound dressing to promote wound healing.
Physiotherapy, surgical treatments like skin grafts, plastic surgery may also be recommended by doctor depending on the degree of burn.
Based on the specific areas involved, special therapies may be recommended
First Aid for Burns Minor Burns
Cool the burned area under cool running water, apply cool compression until pain eases.
Once the burn area is completely cooled, apply aloe vera lotion
Wrap a sterile gauze bandage loosely around the burn wound
From the burned site, try to remove the tight rings or other tight items like jewellery, belt gently and quickly before the swelling sets in.
Do not break the blisters on the burned site. It acts as a protective layer. In case the blister breaks, clean the area with water.
First Aid for Burns For Major Burns
The major burns are to be treated at hospitals but the first aid may be provided until the help arrives
First and foremost, keep the burned person safe from any further injuries by helping to remove the source of the burn. For example, stop the contact with the material like hot metal, steam, hot liquid or switch off the main power source .
The burned areas swell rapidly, hence remove the jewellery, tight rings, belt quickly and safely around burned areas and neck.
If possible, keep the burned area elevated above heart level.
For the severe burned areas do not immerse in water, doing so may cause hypothermia.
A clean cloth or sheet may be used to wrap the patient and transport to the nearest health hospital.
What not to do?
Before starting first aid ensure your own safety. For example, to switch off the electrical power source, flame, wear gloves in case you are dealing with chemicals.
Never apply haldi, paste, oil or use raw cotton on the burned area as it might cause infection ate the wound site.
Avoid applying ice on burned area as it may deepens the injury
To avoid hypothermia, avoid prolonged cooling with water.
Never open blisters, until topical antimicrobials applied, as advised by healthcare professional.
Precautions to prevent household burns
While cooking, do no leave the stove unattended.
The pot handles should be facing towards the rear of the stove
It is safe to keep electrical appliances away from water
It is advisable to take care of the clothing and avoid very loose-fitting clothes that might catch fire over the stove.
Unplug the devices when not in use, like iron box and other devices. Keep them out of reach of children.
If you smoke, never do so in bed or around inflammable materials. Well ventilated area advised.
Precautions to keep infants and children safe
Do not carry infants and young kids near the stove while cooking
If there is a child around, block the access to the stoves, grills, fireplaces, room/space heaters etc
Keep the electric sockets covered or sealed with safety caps. Electrical cables and cords should be kept away from children so that they can’t chew on them.
Keep all the lighters, matches away from children.
The hot utensils, hot liquids should be kept out of reach of children
Before serving food to a child, check the temperature of the food
Check the temperature of the bath water before giving bath for the child.
Facts about burn injuries
In India, moderately or severely burned cases are over 1 000 000 people every year.
Moderately or severely burnt cases among children were reported to be nearly 173000, in Bangladesh.
17% of children with burns have a temporary disability and 18% have a permanent disability in countries like Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt and Pakistan.
In 2008, United States of America reported 410000 burn injuries with 40000 hospitalizations
The majority of the estimated 180000 deaths occur every year are caused by burns in low- and middle-income countries.
Leading cause of morbidity are non-fatal burn injuries
Burns occur mainly in the home and workplace
Source fo facts: WHO
The medical information on this website is provided as an information resource only. The information on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider or a medical practitioner with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, or to assist in understanding any information or in applying information, that you might have come across, on this website. Please note that it dangerous to take any medication without doctor’s prescription or professional advice from a registered health practitioner. Make sure to follow the instructions of physician/doctor/ registered medical practitioner before using this medicine. Medical and health information changes constantly. Therefore, the information provided on this website should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive. Please consult your healthcare provider, before coming to any conclusions with respect to your health condition or for guidance about a specific medical condition. The allopathic medicine as per the law in India must be sold by retail pharmacies holding valid trading drug license only.