How Do You Treat Frostbite And Burns?

Basic first aid treatments for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns, as well as how to treat frostbite and frostnip.

These two conditions which both require first aid and often medical attention, are very opposite in the elements that cause them. However, knowledge of how to treat both of these is a basic part of essential first aid skills.

Starting with frostbite, it is, in simple terms, a freezing of the skin. If it is caught early enough and able to be reversed, it is referred to as frostnip. Often prone to frostnip are the nose, toes, and fingers. The skin will be red and later turn pale. There has been no permanent damage at this point.

If frostnip is observed, it is vital to get those spots re-warmed right away so that it doesn't go further and become frostbite. Warm these spots by placing them against warmer skin elsewhere on the body.

When it has progressed to frostbite, the affected skin will be white. It is also very hard to the touch. First aid treatment is rapid re-warming in water. Slow re-warming when there is a danger of refreezing is not a recommended method. Transport the person suffering frostbite to a place where refreezing is not a possibility. DO NOT use water that is hotter than 106 degrees or you run the risk of a burn.

Do not rub or massage the skin as it is being warmed with water. The thawing in warm water will take about 40 minutes. This may be a painful process. When the skin has returned to red or pink and the skin is once again soft, the thawing is finished.

A medication such as ibuprofen may be helpful, if the victim has no medical restrictions with taking it. Avoid alcohol and tobacco use during this period. Avoid using frostbitten feet or fingers when possible, or further damage may be done. Last step is to seek professional medical care.



The opposite side of the spectrum from treating frostbite is treating burns. Although there are three degrees of burns, all burns can become infected. The steps in general treatment are to remove the victim from the source that caused the burn, check breathing and begin CPR/resuscitation if victim isn't breathing, and cover the burn with a wet and cool cloth. Do not break any blisters, as this may increase the risk of infection. Our skin serves as a barrier against infectious agents and loss of fluid, and the more intact, the better.

Very important to remember is the fact that "home remedies" should not be used. Very dangerous among these is butter. DO NOT use butter on a burn.

It is said that 90% of the damage to the skin by burning begins within the first few seconds of contact with heat, and that even after removing the source of heat, the damage may continue to accumulate for up to a minute if the area is not cooled during that time period. Thus, there is benefit to removing the source of heat and cooling the area after a brief contact with heat, even if it already feels like the area has already been damaged or burned. If you can reach some cool liquid within several seconds, it sometimes turns out that what otherwise would be a first degree burn will not end up demonstrating any visible damage at all. The same applies for a more serious burn: what might end up a second degree burn may be lessened through prompt cooling of the area that has been burned, even if several seconds have elapsed without any intervention.

When the burn only involves the outer layer of skin, it is a first-degree burn. There will be redness, but no blistering. Cool the burn with a wet compress (NOT ice) and ibuprofen may help with the pain.

A second-degree burn is deeper with both red coloring and blisters. These burns are painful. Treat with cool water, cover with a dressing that will not stick to the burn, do not open blisters unless they are infected. If these second-degree burns involve more than 5% of the body, or are on the face, hands, genitals, or eyes, take the victim to a medical facility.

Third-degree burns are the most serious. They involve all layers of the skin including nerves, and often muscle. Charring or blackness of the skin may be visible. Due to the nerve damage, there isn't always pain involved. Irrigate the area gently with saline or water, put on a dressing that will not stick to the burn, and these burns require medical attention by a physician.

© High Speed Ventures 2011