Treating Burns Skin

Treating skin burns properly, whether they are first, second, or third degree, is important in preventing infection and reducing pain and scarring.

Burns can be one of the most painful injuries that most of us will have to endure at some point in our life. The old method of treating a burn was by going to the refrigerator and rubbing butter on it. When a burn is covered with butter, or any other product not intended for the treatment of burns, the heat is held in and can further damage the tissues. The best action to take when the skin has been burned is to immediately run cool water over the affected area. This will stop any further damage to the tissues, and it will also help relieve the pain.

According to the book "Taking Care of Your Child", published in 1990 by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, burns are classified according to their severity. It is important to know how to properly treat a burn and to understand and recognize the degree of severity. It says a burn is categorized according to how deep it has damaged the tissues. The same book gives the following information on how burns are classified, what treatments to administer, and when a doctor should be notified.

A first degree burn, no matter how slight, can be quite painful. It is not a serious problem, and it usually only effects the surface of the skin. A minor sunburn is considered a first degree burn. When applying cold water to a first degree burn it is advised to do so for at least five minutes at a time. Be careful not to let the area become numb. This could also be damaging to the burn and surrounding tissues. Pain relievers such as aspirin or acetaminophen can be used to help alleviate any discomfort.



A second degree burn is very painful and is deeper than a first degree burn. A second degree burn can be identified by skin that is separating or blistering. When the skin becomes scalded with very hot water, or when the skin is blistered and peeling after a sunburn, the injury is usually classified as a second degree burn. It is recommended that the burn victim attains medical help if a second degree burn is on the hands or face. Located in these areas a burn of this severity may affect the use of the hand or the appearance of the face. A severe second degree burn can cause dehydration. The patient should drink plenty of fluids to prevent this from happening. Acetaminophen or aspirin is also recommended to help relieve the pain of a second degree burn.

A third degree burn should always be treated by a doctor. When the skin is this severely burned all of the layers of the skin are destroyed. There is no pain with a third degree burn because the nerves in the skin are also destroyed. There is significant danger of infection and dehydration, and hospitalization is usually necessary.

If a burn requires a bandage, "The PDR Family Guide Encyclopedia of Medical Care", published in 1997 by Three Rivers Press, says the burn should be cleaned with soap and warm water daily. Cleanliness is of the utmost importance to avoid an infection. It says if the bandage is clinging to the burn it should be saturated in clean, warm water until the bandage loosens. When cleaning the burn, extreme care should be taken so blisters are not broken. Loose skin should be removed. The same article says to rinse the burn thoroughly with warm water and gently pat the area with a fresh towel until it is dry. It recommends the use of a clean tongue depressor to put any ointment or medication on a fresh bandage. A new tongue depressor should be used for each application. It is important to keep the bandages dry and sterile.

If you are unsure about the severity of a burn a doctor or hospital should be notified immediately. A doctor should also be notified if a burn is not healing or if there are signs of complications such as a fever or infection. Following the advice of your physician is important in successfully treating and alleviating pain associated with a severe burn.

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