Nasty burns are serious business and treating them correctly is a must in order to reduce the risk of infection and speed up the healing process.
Burn injuries impact around 11 million people around the world each year, while the number in Australia sits at around 200,000. In addition to the physical and emotional tole this takes on victims, burns costs the Australian economy $150 million each year.
According to Know Injury, cool winter temperatures can increase the risk of a burn, especially as people heat up their homes with fires, heaters, hot drinks and even hot water bottles. As such, it’s extremely important to be aware of how to properly treat wounds in the case of a burns emergency.
“It is important to be aware of how to prevent and treat burns as the weather cools,” the Injury Control Council of Western Australia’s Chief Executive Sandy Lukjanowski said. “For those who experience a minor burn, immediate and correct first aid can have a huge impact on the severity of the injury.”
First, it’s important to know the difference between a burn and a scald. A burn is an injury caused by a dry heat. This could be anything from a fire or an iron. On the other hand, a scald is caused by a wet heat. This could include steam or a hot liquid.
Next, it’s ideal to prevent burn hazards around the house where possible. Some simple examples which prevent many burns and scalds in Australia include keeping items such as kettles, jugs, teapots, appliance cords and saucepan handles away from the edge of surfaces, unplugging and switching off hair dryers, hair straighteners and curling irons when they’re not in use and locking away lighters and matches from small children. These tips may sound simple, but it could prevent injury.
If an accident does occur, it’s important to act fast to minimise blistering, swelling and painful red skin. It’s important to note that the pain you feel doesn’t always reflect the severity of a burn of scald. There have been examples of people getting burnt seriously but not feeling pain. As such, it’s important to treat any burn immediately.
According to the NHS in the United Kingdom, there is a correct first aid procedure to follow. The first step is removing the person from the source of the burn to prevent further injury. Next, it’s important to cool the burn by running it under water. While many people believe running a burn under icy cold water or soothing it with an ice pack or ice cubes is the best thing to do, it actually isn’t. Instead, run a burn under lukewarm water for 20 minutes.
If you need to, be sure to remove any clothing or jewellery from the impacted area. In serious cases, you may find that clothing or material becomes stuck to the skin. Don’t try and forcefully remove it as you could cause further injury.
When you can, it’s also important to cover the burn to prevent the risk of infection. Some people opt for cling wrap or plastic bags, while using a clean damp and lint-free cloth as a dressing is also encouraged.
In some cases, you will require medical attention as soon as possible. According to Know Injury, you should seek help if a burn occurs on the face, groin, feet or hands. It’s also vital to call an ambulance or seek help if the burn is larger than a 20-cent piece or if the injury was sustained via chemicals or electricity. In some cases, victims will also experience inhalation injury so if you or someone you love is finding it difficult to breathe, call for help as soon as possible.
It’s also important not to use creams, oils, ointments or greasy substances such as butter to cool a burn. While it may provide temporary relief from pain, you are likely to cause further damage to the skin.
“Every intervention from the time of injury will influence the scar worn for life,” Professor Fiona Wood from the Fiona Wood Foundation said in a statement. “Everyone can make a difference: clean cool running water at 15 to 18 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes will change a life.”