A burn caused by heat, radiation, mechanical friction, electricity, sunlight, or a chemical reaction damages the skin or other tissue. This type of injury is usually accidental and can happen in many ordinary situations, so it’s essential to have a first-aid kit handy at home, in your car, and at work to have the best care for a burn.
Types of Burns
According to the Cleveland Clinic, burns are classified in three degrees.
- First-degree burns – Will affect only the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis. The skin may appear red, and the burn may be painful, but there are no blisters.
- Second-degree burns – Deeper burns that affect the top two layers of the skin, the epidermis, and the dermis. Along with redness and pain, second-degree burns may cause swelling and blisters. If you are unsure of how to care for burns with blisters, seek medical attention.
- Third-degree burns – Burns that go through all the layers of the skin all the way down to the fat underneath it. The hair follicles and sweat glands are destroyed, along with the nerve endings. This means that even if you touch the burned area, you might not feel any pain. The skin may appear red, white, or black and look a bit like leather.
Minor and Major Burns
Aside from degrees, types of burns are also minor or major. Minor burns are first- or second-degree burns that take up less than 10% of the skin’s surface. Major burns are second-and third-degree burns that take up more than 10% of the skin’s surface or happen on the face, hands, or feet.
Minor Burn First Aid
For minor burns, you can focus on home remedies. First, you should run cool (not cold) water on the burn, spread cream or burn ointment such as Water Jel Burn Jel Relief, and bandage the area. Do not use an adhesive bandage.
To deal with the pain, an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Aleve) should be administered. First aid kits should contain everything you need to deal with a minor burn.
A second-degree burn may not always require a visit to a doctor if it is small enough. As long as the burn is minor, you should treat it like you would a first-degree burn, with extra precautions to avoid breaking or piercing any blisters that appear.
Major Burn First Aid
If you are dealing with a third-degree burn or a second-degree burn over a large surface of the skin, the first step should be to call 911. Remove the person from the source of the burn and make sure they are safe while waiting for help to arrive.
Check for vital signs such as breathing and a heartbeat, and do emergency breathing if necessary. Remove any jewelry or restrictive items such as belts near the burn area.
It is essential to avoid using cool water on major third-degree burns, as doing so could cause hypothermia and make things worse. However, you can use a cool, moist cloth to cover the burn area.
Raise the affected area above heart level and watch for signs of shock, such as pale skin, fainting, or shallow breathing. Remain with the person until emergency help arrives.