The number of burn injuries that emergency services and hospitals deal with daily is frighteningly high.

The cause of these types of injuries can vary, but raising awareness can prevent these injuries and death. Burns are painful wounds that can be life-threatening and can take a long time to heal, often leaving the patient with life-long scarring. These wounds can be caused by thermal, electrical, chemical and radiation energy. The occurrence of burn wounds generally increases over the winter months due to heating requirements.

What are the different types of burns?

  • Thermal burns - These burns are caused by heat sources, such as hot metals, liquids, steams and flames, which raise the skin's temperature, which causes cell death.
  • Electrical burns - These burns are caused by electrical current, either alternating or direct current.
  • Chemical burns - are caused by strong acids, alkalies, detergents or solvents coming into contact with the skin.
  • Radiation burns - These are prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light such as the sun or other sources such as x-ray.

Classification of burns:

Burns can be classified on the depth and severity of how they damage the skin.

  • Superficial - These burns only affect the outer layer of the skin or epidermis. The skin will present as red, painful and dry.
  • Partial - These burns harm the epidermis and dermis, presenting as red, blistered skin, which may also be swollen and very painful.
  • Full-thickness - This burn destroys the epidermis, dermis and may also damage the underlying tissue. The burn area will appear charred. Often there is little to no pain as the nerve endings have been damaged.

How not to treat burns:

There are many old wives’ tales on how to treat burns. Unfortunately, a lot of these can cause more harm than good. Some of these methods include:

  • Applying ointments, toothpaste and butter to burns.
  • Placing the burned area under ice water.

Rather than this, stick to simple proven treatments to minimise the damage.

How to treat burns:

Unfortunately, the treatment for burns can be a long process, depending on the type of injury. Quick action and prompt transport can minimise the amount of damage that a burn can cause. Here are a few tips on how to treat burns.

  • Cool the burn area with cool tap water.
  • Once cooled, apply an approved burn ointment to the site.
  • Cover the burn area with a moist dressing.
  • For moderate and severe burn, call 084 124 for further medical attention.

By having this knowledge, you can mitigate the risk and also minimise the damage caused by burns.