Burns are injury to the skin and deeper tissues caused by hot liquids, flames, radiant heat, direct contact with hot solids, caustic chemicals, electricity, or electromagnetic (nuclear) radiation. Skin
exposed to temperatures as low as 120°F is burned after about 5 minutes.
BURNS FACTS AND FIGURES
A burn involves the destruction of skin cells, and sometimes the underlying structures of muscle, fascia and bone. It occurs when these structures absorb more heat than they can dissipate.
Children and older adults, because they have thinner skin, get severe burns at low er temperatures and in less time than an adult.
- People with MINOR to MODERATE injury according to depth and percentage can be treated in a speciality Burn Center or Unit, a local community hospital with a surgeon who knows state-of-the-art burn care, or on an outpatient basis.
- Burns covering more body surface area than an arm of the victim, or if burns are on the face, hands, neck, perineum or feet are considered MAJOR and should be cared for in a special Burn Unit or Center.
TYPES OF BURNS
Burns are often categorized as first, second, or third-degree, depending on how badly the skin is damaged.
- First-degree: these are the least serious burns. They are marked by redness, and extend only into the outermost layer of skin, known as the epidermis.
- Second-degree: These extend into skin tissue directly below the epidermis (known as the superficial or papillary dermis) and can involve superficial blistering.
- Third-degree: These damage all layers of skin. If they cover a large proportion of the body, they can be life-threatening.
- First degree burns are red and painful and may cause some skin swelling. The affected skin may peel off after a day or two, and they typically heal in three to six days.
- Second degree burns have blisters and are painful and very swollen. The skin appears red and splotchy. These burns usually take two to three weeks to heal.
- Third degree burns are the most severe but are sometimes the least painful because the burn has damaged nerves in the skin. The skin itself appears white or charred. Healing is prolonged.
IMPORTANCE OF BURNS LOCATION
Burn location is an important consideration.
If the burn involves the face, nose, mouth or neck, there is a risk that there will be enough inflammation and swelling to obstruct the airway and cause breathing problems.
If there are circumferential burns to the chest, as the burn progresses, the tissue involved may not allow enough motion of the chest wall to allow adequate breathing to occur. If circumferential burns occur to arms, legs, fingers, or toes, the same constriction may not allow blood flow and put the survival of the extremity at risk. Burns to areas of the body with flexion creases, like the palm of the hand, the back of the knee, the face, and the groin may need specialized care. As the burn matures, the skin may scar and shorten, preventing full range of motion of the body area.
A chemical burn is irritation and destruction of human tissue caused by exposure to a chemical, usually by direct contact with the chemical or its fumes. Chemical burns can occur in the home, at work or school, or as a result of accident or assault.
An electrical burn may appear minor or not show on the skin at all, but the damage can extend deep into the tissues beneath your skin. If a strong electrical current passes through your body, internal damage, such as a heart rhythm disturbance or cardiac arrest, can occur. Sometimes the jolt associated with the electrical burn can cause you to be thrown or to fall, resulting in fractures or other associated injuries.
CLASSIFICATION FOR BURNS
- Reddening and discolouration of the skin.
- Some swelling.
- A combination of discolouration, swelling and blistering of the skin.
- If any blisters have burst a clear watery fluid may leak from the site (Serum).
- May involve one or more blisters being formed.
- Pitted/charred appearance.
- Surrounding skin around burn site may appear wax-like and false.
- Clear watery fluid may leak directly from the burn site.
- Blisters may form around the site of the main charred area but not on it.
- If the skin is badly charred, the casualty may not experience pain as the nerve endings may be destroyed.
BURN CARE PRECAUTIONS
- Never use ice to cool the burn as ice can cause further damage to the skin.
- Never apply butter or ointment on the burns as this will prevent fast healing.
- Never try to treat severe burn or chemical burn or electrical burn at home. Sometimes serious injury can be caused inside the body due to electric burns which cannot be seen on the skin.
- Never remove cloths from an open blister in severe burn and never apply cold water to severe burns as a person might go in shock.
- Never put a pillow under the person’s head with an airway burn, as this can close the airway.
- Consult a specialist immediately if burn is extensive, severe, or due to chemicals or electricity and if a person has inhaled some smoke or shows signs of shock.
FIRST AID IS VERY HELPFUL
Knowing that you can save your own life when required, or that of the people you know or those in trauma during some emergency helps you relax more and be more secure. The sense of security promotes a healthy and a more confident environment around you where you and the people around you would feel more secure. The presence of such people provides reassurance to the others in the situation.
Knowledge of first aid promotes a healthy, secure and a safer environment, and instils confidence amongst people, their families, their colleagues and associates. Basic first aid knowledge is very helpful in dealing with trauma situations. Not just the medical help they provide, but the confidence they exhibit is very helpful during casualties. Being trained to provide first aid is useful to oneself and society.