Burn Care in the First Few Mintues After The Injury
- Always look closely at the entire scene to MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT IN DANGER. Whatever burned the patient is probably still there. If you are injured trying to help, you may decrease the chance of the original victim receiving help. Protect yourself first.
- CALL FOR HELP. 9-1-1 or your local emergency number if there is a fire, wreck or other known life-threatening situation.
- BE PREPARED TO PROVIDE BASIC LIFE SUPPORT and CPR as you would with any other victim. The most common cause of death in the first few minutes is not the burn itself but it is some damage to the patient’s airway or some other trauma. As bad as the burn looks it is not likely the most life-threatening injury. Remember Airway, Breathing & Circulation.
- The first thing you do for a burn patient is STOP THE BURNING PROCESS. Get the patient away from what is burning them or get what’s burning off of them. If someone’s clothing is on fire, make them STOP, DROP AND ROLL. Use blanket, jacket etc. to smother the fire. Do not leave someone on fire while you look for water to put on them. In the case of chemical burns, dry chemicals should be brushed off before flushing with lots of running water—flush with water for 20 minutes ONLY if it is a chemical burn.
- COOL THE BURN WITH WATER BRIEFLY. Do not flush with water for more than five minutes for an adult. Do not flush small child with water for more than one minute. The point of putting water on the burn is not to make it feel better and it is not to clean it off--those are not bad things but are not priorities. The point is to get the skin back to its normal temperature and your normal skin temperature is not cold.
- REMOVE ALL JEWELRY AND CLOTHING from the burned area as soon as possible. This will help stop the burning process. Jewelry and clothing may also become tight and cut off circulation as the burns begin to swell. Careful not to burn yourself since these may still be hot. If the clothing is stuck to the patient, it may be left in place but take steps (like cutting some of material) to make sure it will not become tight when that area of the body begins to swell.
- WRAP THE PATIENT IN A DRY SHEET and blankets to KEEP THE PATIENT WARM. They are likely to go into shock and getting cold will make this more likely.
- DO NOT APPLY ANY CREAM, LOTION, BUTTER, MEDICINE OR OTHER SUBSTANCE to the burn. These are not helpful and may make the burn worse and complicate medical treatment later—even medicated first aid creams are of no use for serious burns at the scene.
- SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION for the patient as soon as possible. While waiting for EMS, keep the patient warm, keep the patient calm, move them to fresh air (if they can be moved), watch for signs of shock, watch for signs of respiratory problems.
- For minor burns that do not require professional medical treatment: after you have cooled the burn, you may apply a topical medicine that is made for burns (read and follow label instructions) and cover it with a clean dry dressing—like a band-aid. Change the dressing and wash the wound every day.
All of the complex problems and possible scenarios of a burn injury cannot be addressed on one page but this is a good overview of the most important things you can do as the first person to arrive at the scene of incident involving a burn injured person.