Animal Protection >
Activist Index >
Protection, and Self Defense
First Aid and Street Medics
One of the most painful injuries
that one can ever experience is a burn injury. When a burn occurs to the
skin, nerve endings are damaged causing intense feelings of pain. Every
year, millions of people in the United States are burned in one way or
another. Of those, thousands die as a result of their burns. Many require
long-term hospitalization. Burns are a leading cause of unintentional
death in the United States, exceeded in numbers only by automobile crashes
Serious burns are complex injuries.
In addition to the burn injury itself, a number of other functions may
be affected. Burn injuries can affect muscles, bones, nerves, and blood
vessels. The respiratory system can be damaged, with possible airway obstruction,
respiratory failure and respiratory arrest. Since burns injure the skin,
they impair the body's normal fluid/electrolyte balance, body temperature,
body thermal regulation, joint function, manual dexterity, and physical
appearance. In addition to the physical damage caused by burns, patients
also may suffer emotional and psychological problems that begin at the
emergency scene and could last a long time.
Burns are classified in two ways:
Method and degree of burn.
Thermal - including flame, radiation,
or excessive heat from fire, steam, and hot liquids and hot objects.
Chemical - including various
acids, bases, and caustics.
Electrical - including electrical
current and lightning.
Light - burns caused by intense
light sources or ultraviolet light, which includes sunlight.
Radiation - such as from nuclear
sources. Ultraviolet light is also a source of radiation burns.
Never assume the source of a
burn. Gather information and be sure.
First degree burns are superficial
injuries that involve only the epidermis or outer layer of skin. They
are the most common and the most minor of all burns. The skin is reddened
and extremely painful. The burn will heal on its own without scarring
within two to five days. There may be peeling of the skin and some temporary
Second degree burns occur when
the first layer of skin is burned through and the second layer, the
dermal layer, is damaged but the burn does not pass through to underlying
tissues. The skin appears moist and there will be deep intense pain,
reddening, blisters and a mottled appearance to the skin. Second degree
burns are considered minor if they involve less than 15 percent of the
body surface in adults and less than 10 percent in children. When treated
with reasonable care, second degree burns will heal themselves and produce
very little scarring. Healing is usually complete within three weeks.
Third degree burns involve all
the layers of the skin. They are referred to as full thickness burns
and are the most serious of all burns. These are usually charred black
and include areas that are dry and white. While a third-degree burn
may be very painful, some patients feel little or no pain because the
nerve endings have been destroyed. This type of burn may require skin
grafting. As third degree burns heal, dense scars form.
Determining the severity
Source of the burn - a minor
burn caused by nuclear radiation is more severe than a burn caused by
thermal sources. Chemical burns are dangerous because the chemical may
still be on the skin.
Body regions burned - burns to
the face are more severe because they could affect airway management
or the eyes. Burns to hands and feet are also of special concern because
they could impede movement of fingers and toes.
Degree of the burn - the degree
of the burn is important because it could cause infection of exposed
tissues and permit invasion of the circulatory system.
Extent of burned surface areas
- It is important to know the percentage of the amount of the skin surface
involved in the burn. The adult body is divided into regions, each of
which represents nine percent of the total body surface. These regions
are the head and neck, each upper limb, the chest, the abdomen, the
upper back, the lower back and buttocks, the front of each lower limb,
and the back of each lower limb. This takes up 99 percent of the human
body. The remaining one percent is the genital area. With an infant
or small child, more emphasis is placed on the head and trunk.
Age of the patient - This is
important because small children and senior citizens usually have more
severe reactions to burns and different healing processes.
Pre-existing physical or mental
conditions - Patients with respiratory illnesses, heart disorders, diabetes
or kidney disease are in greater jeopardy than normally healthy people.
Treatment of burns
Cool a burn with water. Do what
you must to get cool water on the burn as soon as you can. Go to the nearest
water faucet and turn on the cold spigot and get cool water on the burn.
Put cool, water-soaked cloths on the burn. If possible, avoid icy cold
water and ice cubes. Such measures could cause further damage to burned
Never apply ointment, grease or
butter to the burned area. Applying such products, actually confine the
heat of the burn to the skin and do not allow the damaged area to cool.
In essence, the skin continues to "simmer." After the initial
trauma of the burn and after it has had sufficient time to cool, it would
then be appropriate to put an ointment on the burn. Ointments help prevent
The one exception to the "Cool
a Burn" method is when the burn is caused by lime powder. In that
case, carefully brush the lime off the skin completely and then flush
the area with water. In the event of any serious burns, call 9-1-1.