Burns are one of the leading causes of injury and death in South Africa. They can result from contact with any heat source including hot metal, electricity or steam. Learn how to treat burns at home and know when to seek medical advice.
How to treat burns at home
Treatment for burns will depend on the type of burn. In first degree burns, the skin will be red, slightly swollen and painful to the touch. Simply run cold water over the affected area for 5 to 10 minutes and cover the burn with a sterile dressing. Avoid dressings with fluff or lint that could stick to the skin. Never apply ice, butter or anything other than burn medication onto the burn. Do not pop any blisters that may develop – this can cause a secondary infection.
Treating second and third degree burns
A second degree burn is a partial thickness burn that is extremely painful and usually blisters. A third degree burn is extremely serious and results in black and charred skin. The burn may also look hard and white. The skin will be swollen, and may have broken open. These burns are not usually painful because the nerve endings have most likely been damaged.
These burns usually require medical assistance. However, you can apply running water to the burn for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove clothing, shoes or jewellery from the burnt area, unless it is stuck to the skin. If the burn covers a large area of the body, cover it with a clean sheet soaked in cold water. Then seek medical assistance.
Dealing with chemicals burns
Remove any contaminated clothing and brush off any dry chemicals or residue. Wash the affected area under running water for 15 minutes then visit a doctor or hospital.
Get medical assistance if a burn is:
- Second or third degree
- Larger than the victim’s palm
- On the genital, face, hands, feet or joints
- Caused by a chemical or electric shock