When no medical expertise is available you have to take care of yourself, the best way you know. When it comes to treating bad burns most people will aggravate the situation due to their lack of knowledge. There are many things that can cause burns, from heat sources to electrical wires and even UV radiations coming from the sun. Burn treatment shouldn’t be complicated and should be learned by everyone.
Despite the nature of burns we have to follow the same immediate first steps: wash off the burned area and cool down the skin. It is important to stay calm and not panic, otherwise you will make mistakes, or even worse you will go into shock. Here is what you have to do:
- Limit the damage
Remove the clothes from the burned area and around the area and run cold water over the affected area to wash off causative substances, cool the skin down and ease the pain. Don’t use ice on burns as it will limit the blood flow to the area and it will slow down the natural healing process. It is also prohibited to use ingredients such as oil, grease or butter because they will keep the heat in and will amplify the pain.
- Apply a calming aid.
Use aloe vera or honey to treat the burn. Apply gently on the burn without rubbing the area. Aloe vera’s moisturizing, anti-inflammatory and mildly antiseptic effects are well recognized and it has been used to treat burns since antiquity. The compound found in aloe vera help the cells regenerate and heal faster.
- Assess the damage
This is the time when you decide how bad things are and what risk are you willing to take to search for medical care. Most of the burns are not life threatening unless they pose a risk to your airways or involve 10 percent or more of your skin surface. The risk increases if the person suffers from a chronic disease or if the age of the person is in one of the two extremes (young or old). To establish the burn severity, check the following:
Where is the burn located? If it’s on the face or neck, it could cause respiratory-tract damage and the swelling could block the airways. Look for medical help if the burn is not small.
Establish the burn degree. How deep it goes? If there are blisters the person has a second degree burn and if the skin is blanched or speckled white, that’s a sign for a third degree burn.
How much skin was burned? If it’s 10 percent or more than the person could be in a life-threatening situation and it needs professional medical care. Even burns that cover more than 5 percent of the entire skin surface could pose a problem. You can estimate the skin surface damaged by the burn, by measuring with the patient’s hand, it counts for 1 percent.
- No matter how well prepared we are, sometimes we need professional medical care.
If it’s a third degree burn or the affected body area is bigger than 5 percent the body will heal harder and it’s exposed to infections. What goes over 10 percent can aggravate even faster and become life-threatening. In these situations is best to search for medical care.
Burns classification and how to treat them
First degree burns
These are the mild sunburns that make your skin red and painful. You can add cool compresses or aloe vera and for the pain mix a few drops of lavender essential oil in two teaspoons of honey apply it on the affected area few times a day. The burn should heal in a few days without resultant sloughing of the damaged top layer of skin.
Second degree burns
When blistering is present, it is a clear sign of a second degree burn. The blisters may pop up and the wound can get infected. The healing time for these types of burns is up to three weeks and you have to keep them clean and protected to avoid scarring. Once a blister has started leaking you have to do the following:
- Debride the blister
- Wash the wound with soap and water and dry around it. Don’t apply the towel directly on it as it will leave residues on the burned area.
- Apply antibiotic ointment if available or honey (not for babies)
- Apply a gauze and tape dressing
- Change the dressing daily or when it gets wet or dirty. Repeat step 2 to 4 every time you change the bandage.
Third degree burns
Then the skin is blanched or speckled with or gone altogether, it is a clear sign of a third degree burn. This type of burn will damage all the skin layers down the fat or muscle. When it reaches the fat or muscle layer some categorize it as a fourth degree burn. Despite the classification debate, we will treat them the same. Depending on the severity of the burns, the nerve fibers can be killed. In this case you will not feel much pain and your skin will be numb. The initial treatment for third degree burns is the same as for second degree burns. Deal with the blisters and open sores, debride the loose, dead skin. These burns will take months to heal and scarring will occur. The affected joints should be kept as mobile as possible to prevent restrictive scars. If you can’t reach out for medical aid in the first two days, the only chance of healing is to debride the black, dead tissue that will form, called an eschar. The skin that will grow will be from the undamaged outer edges and this is why you need to remove the eschar. The edges will grow inward and in order to meet, they don’t have to be obstructed by the eschar. Keep the burns clean and covered to avoid infection.
How to remove dead skin and when to do it.
Debridement is the process of removing dead skin from a burned area. The operation should be done slowly to avoid causing more pain. The tissue you are cutting shouldn’t have any feeling but touching the tender living skin will cause pain
How to debride blisters:
When the blisters pop you have to remove most of the loose, dead skin. Do this daily by washing and picking with sterile tweezers. You can use a pair of scissors, but pay attention not to cut into skin that bleeds.
How to debride eschars:
As we said earlier, an eschar is the dry, leathery dead skin from a third degree burn. Once you debride eschars make sure the area is clean and disinfected as it can leave you prone to infection. Be careful and do the following:
- Use a sterile sharp knife
- Clean the eschar and the area around it with soap and water. Make sure you use clean water. Disinfect the water just to be sure.
- Whittle away. Make a long way cut down the middle if the eschar is thick Start with shallow cuts to avoid cutting into the living tissue. You can judge the depth of the eschar by looking at it. The eschar should not bleed and there should be no pain since the tissue is dead. The living tissue is pink and it will bleed.
- Apply an antibiotic or a honey soaked dressing when you’re done debriding.
- Elevate the area to cut down on the bleeding and swelling if the burn is to an arm or leg.
- Change the dressing twice a day.
Watch out for burn complications!
To prevent infection clean the area by gently washing it with soap and water. It will hurt like hell, but it’s a required step. Keep the burnt areas moist using honey and an absorbent dressing, you will need to do this twice a day. An infected area usually oozes and the skin around the wound will turn warm and red. If you notice pus in the burn or redness spreading around it, red streaks or the person has fever, it’s time to administrate antibiotics. If you don’t have any apply honey to the burn.
Related Reading: Honey the Ultimate Survival Food
The skin retains tissue fluids and damaged or burned flesh cause capillaries to ooze lots of fluid. This will cause dramatic swelling in the surrounding tissue and it becomes a serious problem for face and neck burns. For the arms and legs, the swelling can cut off blood supply to the hand or foot. To minimize or prevent the swelling, avoid wearing restrictive clothing or jewelry and keep the affected area elevated at heart level or above.
- Severe dehydration
Larger burns will cause a tremendous loss of fluids, including electrolytes. This happens mostly when the swelling occurs and if the burn covers more than 10% of the body surface there is a high risk of severe dehydration. The best replacement fluid can be made by adding a half-teaspoon of salt and a half-teaspoon of baking soda in a quart of water. If 10 percent of the body is burned drink one gallon a day minimum. Add a quart to that four for every percent of burned surface over 10 percent. If the burn area is 20 percent or more you need professional medical care and special fluids.
A word of advice: The information provided by this article is solely for self-help in times of emergency when medical help is not available. Use this information at your own risk, but the readers are strongly recommended to seek for qualified medical personnel in case of a third degree burn.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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