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First Aid for Burns


Burns are classified in order of their severity and involvement in the tissues of the body; the classifications are: first, second and third degree burns. First aid for burns is specific to the burn injury. First aid for burns varies slightly from the less serious burns to the severe. Second degree burns can be as severe as some third degree burns if they cover a major portion of the body, or on tender areas of the arms, hands and feet.

First aid for burns in the first degree

First degree burns involve the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. This layer is like a raincoat. The epidermis is the layer that keeps all the body fluids within the body and keeps bacteria and all the elements outside the body from entering. In a first degree burn the epidermis has not been injured very badly, it is to be considered a minor burn unless the burn involves sensitive areas such as the face, groin, buttocks, or the hands and feet. The first objective is to get away from the source of heat, and then cool the burn. Run cool water over the burn or place a cool compress over it. Cooling the burn prevents swelling and thus helps to relieve pain.

First aid for burns of the second degree

Second degree burns penetrate down to the dermis, which is the second layer of skin. There is a layer of fluid that collects between the epidermis and the dermis, which causes blistering. Severe pain is associated with a second degree burn due to swelling. As with the first degree burns the first aid for burns are the same. Remove yourself from the source of the burn. Run water over the burn or if that isn’t feasible, place moist towels over the burn for 15 minutes to cool reduce the swelling and cool the burn. If the second degree burn is larger than 3 inches treat it as a major burn, especially if the burn is on the face, hands, feet, buttocks, groin or major joint. Large second degree burns should be treated like an emergency. Dial 911 and get medical help immediately.

First aid for burns of the third degree

Third degree burns are usually painless because the nerve endings have been burned away. You may not know initially how badly burned you may be. The burn will have penetrated the skin and fatty layer, and may be even more involved. Third degree burns can go down to the muscle layers and even to the bone. Some professionals categorize burns that penetrate to the bone as fourth degree burns.

First aid for burns of the 3rd degree starts out by getting away from the source of the burn, and call 911 The victim should be lying down with his/her feet elevated above the heart to prevent the symptoms of shock. Cool moist towels should be placed over the burns. Do not immerse the large third degree burns in cold water; this could cause the victim to go into shock. Never try to remove clothing that is stuck to a burned area. Once EMS has arrived let them take over the care of the victim.

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