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Treating Burns of all Degrees

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The method for treating burns has changed over the years. Many years ago it was common to treat a burn by rubbing butter on it; however, research and experience has taught us that treating burns with butter or some other oil based product will insulate the burn and keep the heat in, which may cause further tissue damage. First aid for treating burns is to start by getting away from the source of the burn and then hold the burned area under cool running water. If the burned area cannot be held under water, cover the area with cool moist towels for at least 15 minutes. Cooling the burned area reduces swelling, which is the main source of the pain.

Burns are classified as first, second and third degree in order of their severity. The severity is categorized by how deep into the tissues each burn goes. First degree burns are painful, yet they are the least serious of all kinds of burns. The most common type of first degree burn is the sunburn. Sunburns can cover such large areas of skin that they can be excruciatingly painful. Treating burns of the first degree is to cool them with water. Don’t let the area burned become numb, because tissue damage may ensue. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen can help relieve generalized pain and discomfort.

Second degree burns are very painful; pressure builds up between the epidermis and the dermis. The two layers of skin separate and a blister is formed. This is very painful. Second degree burns can be caused by a bad sunburn, or some other way such as coming into contact with scalding hot water or steam. If a second degree burn is on the face, hands, groin, feet, or buttocks, treating burns of these areas need emergency medical care. Dehydration can be a problem with second degree burns, so the victim should be offered fluids to drink. Pain relievers can be taken to relieve the pain of second degree burns. There is always a risk of infection with second degree burns because the blisters eventually burst. Never try to break a blister on your own. Once the skin is broken there is a pathway for germs to enter into the body.

Third degree burns are serious burns and should be taken care of by a physician. Third degree burns involved the full thickness of skin, the fatty tissue, and possibly the muscle layer and into the bones. The victim feels no pain with third degree burns because the nerves have been destroyed. Treating burns of the third degree usually requires hospitalization. Treating burns of the third degree requires daily cleaning and bandaging. Often the areas burned will develop a hard crust called eschar which has to be removed for the burned areas to heal.

Treating burns of the third degree is an uphill climb for the victim. So many complications can come about because of the burn. The first threat is hypovolemic shock. Such a serious burn causes a fluid shift as plasma from the circulatory system, as well as the fluids of the body exit through the site of the burn. Many victims of third degree burns die—not from the burns, but from the complications that arise after the burn injuries. If you get burned and you don’t know badly you are injured, call 911 to get medical help right away.


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