Emergency Care for Urgent Situations: Burns
Whether we are at home, at work or even in transit in a car, we are always at a risk of suffering from burns. A burn injury, just as a refresher, is an injury that causes tissue damage due to scalding, contact with flames, electricity, smoke inhalation, chemicals or overexposure to the sun or any other radiation. From the definition, it is clear that there are a lot more things that can cause a burn other than just flames or heat. There are lots of scenarios, based on the many daily activities we carry out, that can lead to one suffering from a burn. You could be in the kitchen preparing a meal, straightening your hair, plugging in one of the many electrical appliances in the house or you could be handling chemicals at work among other scenarios. Chances are that we have all suffered from burns at one time or the other. In most cases, the burns we suffer are mild and we know how to handle them with home remedies and over-the-counter medication. However, what happens when you suffer a severe burn; one that is urgent and needs immediate emergency attention? The on-scene emergency care you administer is crucial and not only does it impact on healing of the burn, it also impacts on the function and appearance of the area where one has suffered the burn. This article will therefore look to highlight how you should proceed in cases of severe burns.
Let us first highlight how you can tell that a burn is severe and as such when you should always call 911 or seek immediate care for burns. If the burn is extensive or covers an area larger than the palm of your hand, if it is located on or involves any functional parts of the body such as the feet, hands, face, eyes, ears, and groin or is located over any major joints, then you should call 911 or seek immediate care. You should also do the same for third degree burns, which are the burns that penetrate all the layers of skin and are the most severe of them all. Signs of such burns include the skin appearing leathery or charred with black, brown or whitish areas or patches. These burns may sometime have little to no pain due the fact that the nerves may be damaged. Chemical and electrical burns should also always be taken seriously due to the fact that they may cause unseen internal injuries and one should also seek immediate care or call 911 for them.
Having established some of the situations when you should seek immediate care for burns, let us look at the emergency care, starting with thermal burns or burns caused by heat. These can be caused by coming into contact with any heat source from a cooking pan, a fire, scalding from a gas or liquid, an ironing box among others. If one has suffered from a severe thermal burn, the first thing to do is to call 911 as soon as possible. As you wait for emergency services to arrive, you should ensure that the person you are attending to is no longer in contact with the source of the burn. If there is a fire, put it out. If they are not breathing, begin to apply CPR if you know the procedure or by following the instructions given by the emergency personnel you talked to when calling 911. Remove any items that may be restrictive to the injured person such as jewelry, belts, especially if they are located on or close to the burned area or the neck. Cover the burn with a dry, sterile gauze bandage or a clean piece of clothing or bed sheet. Do not break any blisters that may have formed. Elevate the burned area above the heart if possible to help with swelling. Proceed to stay with them until emergency services arrive, while watching for signs of shock such as fainting and loss of consciousness, shallow breathing or skin turning pale.
If the person has suffered from a chemical burn, the on-site emergency care is a bit different. The first thing to do, of course, is call 911. If they have suffered a burn due to a dry or powdered chemical, you should proceed to gently wipe it from the skin. If the package for the chemical is available, check it for any sort of emergency advice. If the chemical is not powdered, dry or elemental such as sodium, potassium, lithium among others, then rinse the exposed area with running water as soon as you can such as a shower, hose or faucet to ensure tissue damage doesn’t continue as you wait for emergency services to arrive. If the chemicals got into the eyes, begin rinsing their eyes immediately as well. You should then remove any contaminated clothing, taking care not to touch any part of the skin that is unaffected with the clothing. Cutting the clothing away is preferable to ensure this. Cover the exposed area loosely with a dry, clean cloth as mentioned earlier. For electrical burns, after calling for 911, the first thing to do is ensure the person who has suffered the burn is protected from further damage by unplugging the device or appliance that led to the burn, or going to the circuit breaker and turning the power off. If the person is still in contact with the electrical current, you should ensure you don’t touch them until you turn off the power. If they are not breathing start CPR. Cover the burn with a sterile gauze or clean piece of clothing or bed sheet. Be on the lookout for signs of shock as you wait for emergency services to arrive.
Hopefully, from the above discussion, you will know what to do when you are in a situation where someone has suffered a burn so as to ensure they get the treatment they require.