Whether it’s a simple sunburn or touching a hot pot on the stove, many of us have experienced minor burns at one time or another. Burns can happen when the skin is exposed to heat (from fire or hot liquids), electricity, corrosive chemicals or radiation. There are hundreds of thousands of burn-related accidents reported every year, but fortunately, the majority of them can been prevented.
Thermal (heat source) burns are the most common, with the majority of these occurring in the kitchen. Although some minor burns aren't cause for concern and can be safely treated at home, other more serious burns require medical care. Ultimately, the type and severity of the burn depends on the number of layers of skin affected. It should also be noted that children in particular are the most at risk for household burns.
Burns can come from a variety of sources, and include:
Burns are often categorized as first, second, or third-degree, depending on how badly the skin is damaged. This also dictates how the burn should be treated.
First-degree burns, the mildest of the three, are limited to the top layer of skin and produce redness, pain, and minor swelling. The skin will be dry and without blisters.
Second-degree burns are more serious and involve the skin layers beneath the top. These burns can involve blistering, severe pain and redness.
Third-degree burns are the most serious type of burn and involve all the layers of the skin and underlying tissue. In these cases, the skin can range in colour from waxy white, to brown or charred and will appear dry. There is typically little pain experienced initially due to nerve damage.
You can't always avoid injuries from household burns, but these simple precautions can help to reduce the risk.
All burns should be treated quickly to reduce the temperature of the burned area and reduce damage to the skin and underlying tissue (if the burn is severe). Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your home, but whenever in doubt, contact your local emergency medical services immediately.
For flame burns, extinguish the flames by rolling on the ground and cover with a blanket or jacket. Remove smoldering clothes or any jewelry from the affected area and call for medical assistance.
For scald injuries, remove any wet clothing and run cool water over the area to slow down the burning process. Avoid using home remedies, ice or ointments as these will often make the burn worse. Seek medical attention for more serious burns.
For chemical burns, flush the area with cool running water for 5 minutes or more. If the burned area is large, use a tub, shower or garden hose. Seek medical attention depending on the severity of the burn. Injuries to the eyes or mouth must always be evaluated by medical personnel.
For minor electrical burns, run the area under cool water and cover with sterile gauze. For major injuries, be sure that the electrical source is disconnected and call for immediate emergency medical assistance. Check for vital signs and apply CPR if necessary.