With May being Burns Awareness Month in South Africa, we thought we’d use the opportunity to stress the importance of knowing how to treat burn wounds. Using a basic kit and some rudimentary skills, you can greatly assist and stabilize a burn accident victim before professional medical assistance arrives.
Firstly, a basic knowledge of the different categories of burn wounds is required. Burns are categorized as first-, second-, third-, or fourth-degree, depending on how many layers of skin and tissue are burned:
- First-degree burns are more minor burns of the first layer of skin.
- There are two types of second-degree burns. Type one is superficial partial-thickness burns that injure the first and second layers of skin while type two are deep partial-thickness burns that injure the deeper skin layers.
- Third-degree burns (full-thickness burns) injure all the skin layers and tissue under the skin. These burns always require medical treatment.
- Fourth-degree burns extend through the skin to injure ligaments, tendons, muscle, blood vessels, nerves and bones. These burns always require professional medical treatment.
The basic medical kit needed to treat burn wounds includes the following:
- Hand Sanitizer and Gloves – do not treat the wound with dirty hands. Alcohol-based gel/wipes can sanitize your hands when soap and water aren’t available. Sanitize your hands, slip on a pair of latex or non-latex gloves and sanitize again after treating the wound.
- Wipes for cleaning a wound – before you bandage, you must clean the wounds. Antiseptic wipes/sprays are handy for cleaning injuries when there’s no clean water nearby.
- Antibiotic cream or ointment – can help protect minor wounds from infection. They keep the area moist, which will promote healing and prevent the wound from getting stuck to a bandage or gauze.
- Gauze and tape – you can use gauze pads to apply pressure to small wounds. When used with tape, gauze can also serve as a bandage to cover and protect wounds. Adhesive bandages of different sizes can also help protect wounds.
- Pain relievers – Aspirin, Acetaminophen, and Ibuprofen are popular over-the-counter pain relievers. Aspirin should not be given to anyone under age 18.
- Creating your kit – once you’ve gathered all your first aid kit essentials, you’ll need a way to keep them clean and dry. You don’t have to buy an expensive fancy medical bag. A water resistant make-up bag or tool kit will do the job.
Some first aid tips the ‘average Joe’ can master:
- Run cool water over the burned area, soak it in cool water (not ice water), or cover it with a clean, cold, wet towel.
- Cover the burn with a sterile bandage or a clean cloth.
- Protect the burn from pressure and friction.
- Use over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen for pain.
- Do not apply butter, ice, fluffy cotton dressing, adhesive bandages, cream, oil spray, or any household remedy to a burn.
- If a burn appears to be severe, or you develop signs of infection, you need to call for professional medical assistance.
It is always best to be well prepared. Make sure you have your handy medical kit available to react to both minor and more serious incidents. The basic assistance that anyone can provide to a burn victim while waiting for professional medical help to arrive can be of vital importance to the treatment of serious burn wounds.
Make sure you know your basic first aid tips, have your kit available, assist the burn patient and call for professional medical assistance – there is no excuse, anyone can be of help. For any Emergency call Maponya 911 Rescue on 086 196 0960!