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The STS blog

4 Nov 2016

How to deal with a Burn

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Have you ever wondered what you would do if someone got burnt?

Here is our quick guide on what to do.

 

Burns and scalds are damage to the skin caused by heat. Both are treated in the same way.

A burn is caused by dry heat – by an iron or fire, for example. A scald is caused by something wet, such as hot water or steam.

Burns can be very painful and may cause:

  • red or peeling skin
  • blisters
  • swelling
  • white or charred skin

The amount of pain you feel isn’t always related to how serious the burn is. Even a very serious burn may be relatively painless.

 

To treat superficial (minor) burns at home

  • Cool the skin with running cool or tepid water for at least 10 minutes, ideally within 20 minutes of the injury happening. This will prevent the burn getting worse.
  • Do not use ice, iced water, creams, or greasy substances (such as butter) to soothe the burn.
  • Remove any clothes or jewellery from around the burn, including babies nappies unless they are sticking to it.
  • Cover the burn using strips of cling film, rather than wrapping it around a limb. A clean plastic bag is suitable to use for burns on your hand.
  • If the face or eyes are burnt, sit up as much as possible rather than lying down – this helps to reduce swelling.
  • If the burn is painful, taking a mild painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help. However, always check the packaging to make sure that you take the correct dosage and never give aspirin to children under 16 years of age.
  • Do not interfere with the burn, or break any blisters. If the burn is very painful, or seems to be getting worse, call NHS 111 or visit your GP for advice.

If you’re in any doubt whether you need further medical assistance, call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Deep, or large burns, or burns to the face, hands, or across joints, must always be checked by a doctor and may require hospital treatment.

 

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Treating chemical burns

If a chemical, such as bleach or acid, burns your skin, you should follow the advice below.

  • Wearing protective gloves, remove any chemicals from the skin by running the affected area under cool tap water for 20 minutes, or more. If the chemical involved is in powder form, such as lime, brush it off the skin before running the skin under water.
  • Remove any jewellery, or clothing, that may have been exposed to the chemical.
  • Apply a cool wet towel to help relieve pain.
  • If you experience an increased sensation of burning, rewash the skin for several more minutes.

 

You should call 999 or visit your local Accident and Emergency

Department, so that the burn can be assessed and, if necessary, treated.

 

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Treating electrical burns

Electrical burns may not look serious, but they can be very damaging.

Someone who has an electrical burn should seek immediate medical attention. Visit your local Accident and Emergency Department, or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.