Emergency care for people with serious burns

If first aid has not already been given, flush the burn thoroughly with clean cold water. This helps to prevent further damage. You should also remove all burned clothing from the body of the person. If the burn area is limited, immerse the site in cold water for about 30 minutes. This again helps reduce pain, swelling (oedema) caused by tissue fluid flooding into the damaged area, and inflammation.

The other important aspect of immediate care in a major burn is prevention of heat loss from the body, especially in children, if a large area of the body has been burnt, or there are third degree burns. Hypothermia is defined as excessive cooling of a person or reduction of body temperature which, if not prevented, may result in the body systems stopping their normal function. To prevent hypothermia from happening you should apply clean wraps around the burnt area or the whole patient.

Why should you immerse or flush a burnt part of the body with cold water?

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This is because of three main reasons:

  • It reduces further tissue damage
  • It reduces swelling/oedema and inflammation
  • It also helps to reduce pain.

After giving immediate first aid, urgently refer a person with a severe burn to a higher health facility for specialist care and treatment.

What you have studied so far is only the first aid treatment for a severe burn. Once you have done this, refer individuals with severe burns to a hospital or higher health facility for specialist care. This must be done as soon as possible. The first six hours following a burns injury are critical for recovery.

Last modified: Friday, 4 July 2014, 9:43 AM