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How do I Give Proper Burn First Aid?

Dana Hinders
Updated May 17, 2024
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Treating a burn victim can be a frightening experience, but it's important to stay calm and act quickly. Learning how to give proper burn first aid can be critical in determining the amount of scarring there will be and possibly the survival of the burn victim. Since a burn is an open wound, proper first aid and immediate medical treatment is extremely important to prevent infections that can lead to more serious problems.

Burns can be from electrical, thermal, chemical, or radiant sources. Thermal burns are caused by heat, flames, hot objects, or steam. Electrical burns are caused by electrical current passing through the body. Chemical burns are caused by contact with chemicals such as ammonia. Radiant energy burns can be caused by electric welding arcs, lasers, ultraviolet light, and microwaves.

Burns are usually rated as either first, second, or third degree burns. First degree burns are when the skin is red like a sunburn, but blisters are not present. Second degree burns are when the skin is red and painful and blisters are present. Third degree burns are when the skin layers are destroyed and layers of fat or bone are damaged.

If the victim's clothing is on fire, roll him on the ground to put out the flame. Try to wrap him in a blanket, but make sure it is not synthetic. A synthetic blanket will melt and cause further injury when you are trying to give proper burn first aid.

If the victim is lying on an electrical current, you need to try to stop the current to give proper burn first aid. Turn off the electricity if possible. If this is not possible, you will need to find a board or something else that does not conduct electricity to push the victim away from the current. Check the victim's breathing after he is away from the current and give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if needed.

If it is a liquid chemical burn, pour water on the burn to remove as much of the chemical as possible. For a dry chemical burn, use a cloth to brush excess powder off and then flush with water. If the burn is a laser burn, make sure the victim is out of sunlight or any other kind of light.

If needed, cut away any pieces of clothing that are near the burn. Remove any jewelry; if the limb swells, the jewelry may have to be cut off. Do not break any blisters that have formed, do not try to clean the burn, and do not rub any cream or other substance on the burn.

The final step in learning how to give proper burn first aid is to watch for signs of shock. Fluid lost through the burns can be a cause of shock. If possible, give the victim water to drink until he can be taken to the hospital.

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Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the WiseGeek team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.
Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Mar 11, 2014

And while you're doing these things, if it's serious, either get someone to call an ambulance, or do it yourself. Remember to tell the dispatcher the victim's sex and approximate age, along with how, exactly, the burn occurred.

Taking someone to an urgent care facility will probably suffice for first or second degree burns, but if you even suspect third degree burns, don't mess around with them. Get the victim to the ER as quickly as possible. While you're waiting for the ambulance, elevate the burned part of the body and apply cool, moist cloths. Do *not* attempt to remove burned clothing over the burn area. Don't immerse the victim in cool water -- this can cause hypothermia. If you can't get an ambulance to your location, drive the victim out until you can get ambulance service and have the ambulance meet you somewhere.

You can give helpful first aid for first or second degree burns, but for third degree burns, cover them with cool (not cold), moist cloths and get the victim to an ER. No one but a doctor is truly trained to take care of third degree burns.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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