Bums are sustained in a number of ways - most commonly from dry heat, friction or corrosive chemicals – whilst scalds are caused by liquids and vapors. Although heat accounts for most bums and scalds, it is important to remember that contact with extreme cold can also bum, as can radiation.
At the scene of a burns incident
1. Make sure you do not put yourself in danger from the presence of fire, electrical hazards, etc.
2. Where possible, stop the burning of affected tissues by rapid cooling. The most effective way of doing this is to place the affected limb or part under cold running water
for at least 10 minutes. This will help to minimize tissue damage, swelling, shock and pain.
3. If removing the casualty to hospital, turn off the water and cover the wound. A non-stick sterile dressing is preferable, but if not available, a clean handkerchief, pillowcase or sheet will do; alternatively cling film or a plastic bag may be used. Bums are highly vulnerable to infection, so it is important not to leave a wound exposed to the atmosphere for any length of time.
4. Keep the casualty as calm as possible and observe for signs of shock. Always get medical help quickly for all but the most minor of bums.
Never use an adhesive dressing on a bum.
Never apply creams, ointments, sprays, butter, or indeed anything else to a bum - these will have to be removed and will cause additional pain and distress to the sufferer. Never prick or burst any blister that appears on a bum - these are nature's defense against infection.
Never try to remove anything sticking to a bum - in fact try not to touch or interfere with the affected area at all. However, do remove articles such as jewellery, belts or clothing from around the affected area as swelling is likely to occur.
Burns to the mouth and throat
Bums on the face and mouth are extremely serious as they can cause rapid swelling of the air ways Summon medical help immediately and be prepared to clear the airway and, if necessary, resuscitate. Inform the ambulance service that you suspect bums of the airway.
Burns may be caused by an electrical current passing into the body. Although most damage is done at the points of entry and exit, occasionally tracks of damage are caused internally. Severe electric shock may cause cardiac arrest if the victim is unconscious, disregard any burns initially and give priority to the ABC of resuscitation.
If the source of electricity is low voltage, such as from the domestic supply, it is essential to isolate the casualty from the current, either by disconnecting the power or using wood or plastic to separate the victim from the appliance. Alternatively, wrench the cable from the plug or grab the victims clothing and pull him or her free. Do not come into contact with the victim's skin.
Chemicals that cause severe bums are normally found in industry, but some paint strippers and other domestic chemicals can also inflict similar bums. Try to find out what the substance was in order to inform the "doctor, summon medical help immediately and, if possible, remove the casualty from the scene of the accident. In the meantime:
- Flood the burnt area with copious amounts of running water. Protect yourself with rubber gloves.
- Carefully remove any clothing that is likely to be contaminated with the chemical.
- Get the casualty to hospital as quickly as possible.
Chemical burns to the eyes
If the eyes are affected, it is essential to pour as much water into them as possible. This will obviously need to be done as gently as possible, and as the eyes will probably be tightly shut in pain. it may be necessary to price them open firmly to irrigate the whole eye. Chemical bums to the eyes can cause lasting damage, and even blindness, so it is essential to seek hospital treatment without delay. A glass of water can be used to administer the water if a tap is not available or not appropriate.