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First Aid for Burns

first aid for burns

First Aid for Burns

Burns can damage the soft tissue and be caused by:

  • Heat
  • Chemicals
  • Electricity
  • Extreme Cold or
  • Solar Radiation.

The treatment for burns differs depending on the source of the burn and where on the body you or someone to whom you are administering First Aid has been burned.

First Aid for burns is important to know. Whether the burn is superficial, partial or full thickness, attending to burns quickly with appropriate knowledge on how to handle them is important.

Heat Burns

Heat burns can come from many different sources. These could be:

  • Flames
  • Friction
  • Scalding
  • Solar radiation

For heat burns, regardless of the source of the burn they are generally treated the same.

  1. Cool the burned area under cold water for 20 minutes.
  2. Gently remove any clothing and jewellery from the burned area. DO NOT try to remove any clothing that is sticking to it.
  3. If the area cannot be immersed (kept under water) – such as the face – you can use a towel, sheets or clothes that have been soaked in water. Change/rewet these regularly as they will absorb heat from the burn.
  4. Cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick dressing and loosely bandage in place. If this is not available or the burn covers a large area use a dry, clean sheet or other material that is not fluffy.
  5. Minimise shock.
  6. For bad burns seek medical advice – Call 000 or 112.

DO NOT use ointments, lotions, creams or powders on a burn – these will seal in heat and may contaminate the burn area.

Chemical Burns

Chemical burns usually occur when the skin comes into contact with a strong acid or alkaline substance. The longer the substance remains on the skin, the more severe the burn will be.

If the patient is conscious, general first aid for chemical burns involves:

  1. If available, consult the Materials Safety Data Sheet or container for the chemical and follow instructions.
  2. Remove the chemical from the body as quickly as possible.
  3. Flush the area with large amounts of cool, running water – continue for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Call an ambulance on 000 or 112.
  5. DO NOT use high pressure water – this may further damage the skin.
  6. Help the person to remove contaminated clothing.
  7. Minimise/be prepared to treat shock.

If the eye is affected:

  • Flush the eye for 20 minutes – be sure the water flushes underneath the eyelids.
  • Keep flushing until ambulance personnel arrive.

If the patient is unconscious, follow DRS ABCD and call 000 or 112 immediately.

Electric Burns/Shock

Common signs and symptoms of electrical burns include:

  • Unconsciousness.
  • Semi consciousness – dazed, confused behaviour.
  • Obvious/visible burns on the skin – often on the hand and foot and where the current entered and exited the body.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Absent/weak/irregular pulse.
  • Signs/symptoms of shock

Always check that the area is safe before entering the scene (survey the scene). First aid treatment for electrical burns differs depending on whether the patient is conscious or unconscious.

If the patient is conscious:

  1. Call an ambulance.
  2. Monitor for signs of shock and treat accordingly.
  3. Give care for burns as for heat burns.
  4. Continue to monitor ABC/vital signs.

If the patient is unconscious:

  1. Call an ambulance.
  2. Place the person in the recovery position.
  3. Clear the airways and check for breathing, following DRS ABCD Basic Life Support process.
  4. Monitor for signs of shock and treat accordingly.
  5. Give care for burns as for heat burns.
  6. Continue to monitor ABC/vital signs.

Asset College delivers First Aid training right across Australia. We offer courses in standard first aid and CPR as well as Advanced First Aid. Our trainers have decades of experience treating casualties in the community and administering first aid in an occupational setting.

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