Immediate care following a burn

Prevention starts from the very beginning! Burns can be small and minor, such as a small burn from the oven door that may not leave a mark once healed, or burns that can cause really significant injuries that can be life changing. The immediate first aid after a burn injury can make a big difference to the outcome of your injury and so it is really important to know exactly what to do should you or anyone around you get burnt; it could make the difference between being left with a scar and not getting a scar.

You can get burnt from hot liquids, flames, electrical voltage, contact with hot objects and from chemicals. The first aid for most burns is essentially the same, but the advice here is for burns from scalds (hot liquids like tea etc.) and flames. These are the most common types of burn injuries.

Take these first aid steps:

Remove the person/yourself from the source of the burn if safe to do so. Remove any burning or soaked clothing. Burning clothes can be extinguished by water or by ‘drop and roll’; this means falling to the ground and rolling over.

Next, cool the burnt area with ideally cool and running water for 20 MINUTES. Cooling the area with water for anything up to 3 hours following an injury can help. Make sure the person does not get cold from doing this – maybe cover the non-burnt areas with a blanket or something similar.

If there is any jewelry near the burn area, remove it (if not stuck to the burn or wound). Burn injuries can cause swelling, so for example if you burn your hand and don’t remove your rings, as the hands swells over time you may struggle to remove the ring and it can damage your circulation.

Once the burn area is cooled, cover it. Do not put medications or anything else on it, simply cover it with Clingfilm or if not available a clean and dry and non-adherent cloth. Obviously, if the face is burnt, do not cover that with cling film or anything that could interfere with breathing.

It may be that you can manage the injury yourself with first aid but for anything other than very small and superficial burns, you should always seek medical advice from your GP, A&E or 999 or 111, depending on the severity of the injury.

Remember that burns are preventable injuries, so do your best to take care! If you get burnt, think water – 20 minutes.

RuthAnn Fanstone – Clinical Scar Specialist Physiotherapist at The London Scar Clinic, 152 Harley Street.

Reference: British Burn Association First Aid Position Statement – Alice Varley, Julia Sarginson and Amber Young, July 2014