There are many ways that burns can be acquired at the home or elsewhere. The kitchen is a place where many burns are attained, but burns can happen while working on a vehicle that has not cooled off after running, or by being exposed to electricity or chemicals. Burns are very painful injuries, and even a small one can cause considerable distress. By becoming familiar with the characteristics of first, second, and third degree burns, you will know how to treat them and when to seek medical assistance.
First Degree Burns
These are the most common type of burns and the ones most likely to be a result of a run in with a hot skillet handle or an oven rack while removing a sheet of cookies. Although the pain of these burns is actually out of proportion to their severity, they do hurt quite a bit, but ordinarily can be taken care of at home without any problem. A first degree burn is red and sometimes swollen, but it affects only the upper layer of the skin, the epidermis. The skin will not be broken or blistered with a first degree burn, but will be quite painful.
The first thing to do is to immerse the burn in cold water. This will cool off the area and help to relieve pain. It is usually a good idea to place a gauze bandage loosely over the burned area and tape it in place. This will prevent further injury to the burn and reduce pain. Do not put anything on the burn such as butter or oil or oil, this will only hold in the heat and might cause infection. Adults can take aspirin to help relieve pain, but it is advisable to give acetaminophen to children and teenagers.
The only time a first degree burn needs medical attention is when it covers a fairly large area, especially if it is on the face or hands.
Second Degree Burns
Second degree burns are burns that have gone through the epidermis into the underlying hypodermis. Burns of this sort cause blisters and often weep clear fluid. There will be swelling associated with this burn. Small second degree burns, under 2 inches, can be treated at home in the same manner as first degree burns, but larger ones will need the care of a physician. Larger second degree burns can cause shock and leave the person open to infection. Any second degree burns to the face, groin, hands, or feet should be treated by medical professionals.
A second degree burn should be put into cold water to help cool the burn down and help with the pain. This burn will be even more painful than a first degree burn. If the burn is small, cover it with a gauze pad after it has been removed from the water and patted dry. If there are blisters present, do not break them, it will only be exposing more area to the possibility of infection. Likewise, if pus begins to leak from the burn or it starts to bleed, a doctor’s visit will be necessary. Do not pull off any loose pieces of skin – they are protecting the vulnerable under layers while healing occurs.
Third Degree Burns
These are the most serious of burns, and can even be life threatening. Third degree burns have seared down through the epidermis and hypodermis right into the tissue itself. Some of these burns will reach the bone. There is no pain associated with these burns initially, as the nerves in the area have all been destroyed. Third degree burns look white or black and are dry. Call 911 immediately when someone has received a burn of this type. These burns can easily put a person into shock and will leave them extremely susceptible to infection. If there is clothing stuck to the burn, leave it in place – it will be removed at the hospital.
The person should be treated for shock, regardless of whether they are exhibiting the signs of it; place them on the floor, elevate the feet, and cover them with a blanket. This treatment should be suspended if the burns are on the back of the body or it causes discomfort. Be prepared to administer CPR while waiting for the ambulance if necessary.