|A burn is damage to the
body's tissues, caused by:
- heat e.g. direct heat from fires, adiators or
- radiation from the sun
Burns usually affect the skin, but other important areas of the
body can also be injured. For example, the airways and lungs can
be damaged as a result of inhaling hot fumes and gases.
Recognising different types of burns and having a basic knowledge
of how to treat them can minimise injury and even prevent fatalities.
|The severity of a burn depends
on how deeply it has affected the tissue. There are three categories
(that used to be called first, second and third degree burns):
This is a burn that only affects the surface of the skin. The
skin appears red and slightly swollen and there is usually pain.
A common cause of this type of burn is too much exposure to sunlight
Partial thickness burn
This is a deeper skin burn, but it does not affect the whole depth
of the skin. The skin appears deep red, swollen and blistered.
The surface may have a weeping, wet appearance. The skin is extremely
painful and hypersensitive, even to air movement
Full thickness burn
The full depth of the skin is damaged and the skin appears dry
and leathery. The skin may be pale or blackened. These burns are
surprisingly painless, because the nerve endings within the skin
are also destroyed
Burns to the face, singeing of eyebrows or nasal hair and black
deposits in the mouth or sputum indicate that the airways may
be burnt and immediate medical attention should be sought.
|What to do if someone is
|Personal safety should be
the first priority of anyone offering first-aid to a person with
burns. It is important to be aware of any ongoing risks of fire,
chemicals, or electricity. There may also be risk of toxic fumes
or explosion e.g. due to nearby petrol or gas supply.
The next step is to stop the burning process. Any clothing that
is not stuck to the burn should be carefully removed. The affected
body surface areas should then be flooded with cold water until
medical help, if necessary, is available.
The skin usually swells after a burn, so it is important to remove
anything constricting such as jewellery.
Do not attempt to burst any blisters that form.
For burns other than small and superficial ones, cover with a
clean dressing or other non-fluffy material (eg clingfilm) to
keep it clean and reduce the pain.
If a burn has been caused by a chemical, the chemical should be
removed, by brushing it away if it is a dry powder, or flooding
with large amounts of cold water.
|Very minor burns can be
treated at home. Superficial burns usually doníŽt need any dressings.
Moisturising lotions, after-sun lotions or calamine lotion can
ease some of the discomfort. Simple painkillers may also help.
Superficial burns usually settle in a matter of days, perhaps
with a little skin peeling.
|When should I seek medical
|Medical help is needed:
- For all partial and full thickness burns
- For superficial burns covering an area larger
than the palm of the hand
- For burns on the face, hands or in the groin
- Where there is any doubt about the extent of the
burn or how to deal with it
For severe burns call 999 for an ambulance. Whilst waiting for
specialist help, useful treatment can still be given as above.
|At the hospital, doctors
will continue first-aid measures to prevent ongoing injury by
washing with water and protecting the damaged skin with dressings.
Healthy skin prevents loss of fluid from the tissues underneath
and is also a very effective barrier to infection. These functions
are lost when the skin is burned. After severe burns, large quantities
of fluid can be lost through the skin. This can have a serious
affect on the heart and circulation. This is why burn patients
need to be closely monitored and often require intravenous fluids
to help their circulation.
People with severe burns need to be cared for in intensive care
units where other specialist treatments can be given. Severe loss
of fluid can cause the blood pressure to drop, and they may require
drugs to help the heart to function properly.
Burns may become infected because the skin is less able to protect
itself from infection by bacteria. That is why more serious burns
need to be dressed and kept clean to help prevent this whilst
the skin heals. If infection is suspected, treatment with antibiotics
may be needed.
|Recovering from burns
|The time taken for burns
to heal depends on how serious they were. Most superficial burns
heal within about two weeks and do not usually leave a scar.
Deeper burns take longer to heal and sometimes require skin grafts
by a plastic surgeon. These injuries tend to result in scars that
can be difficult to treat. Specialist treatment in these cases
is aimed at minimising such scars.
|For most people, the greatest
threat of injury or death from fire is in the home. The most common
causes of fire are as follows:
- Smoking-related fires (eg cigarette ends/matches)
- Cooking-related (eg chip pans)
- Heaters and electric fires
A simple bedtime routine can prevent fires:
- Make sure all cigarettes are extinguished. Do
not smoke in bed
- Turn off all electrical appliances that don't
need to be on (e.g. hairdryers)
- Turn off portable heaters
- Make sure open fires have a suitable fireguard
and are safe to leave
- Close all doors to prevent any fire spreading
Fitting and maintaining a smoke alarm can save lives where these
safety measures fail.
|Hong Kong Fire Services
(information on fire prevention and management)
This website includes lots of advice on fire prevention
U.S. National Library of Medicine
|Healthwise (Health Information Resource
Tel : (852) 2849 2400
Fax : (852) 2849 2900
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Homepage : http://www.healthwise.org.hk/
This leaflet is for information only. For a detailed
opinion or personal advice, please consult with your own