MTM 017: First Aid Skills: How to Handle Burns and Scald Wounds

HOW TO HANDLE BURNS. Let’s move on with the series on acquiring first aid skills. Today, we will be talking about how to handle burns and scald wounds.


how to handle burns

We get burned, frequently, in our homes and, sometimes, outside our homes. And it could be:

  • Hot liquid e.g. water or oil
  • Handling a hot object
  • Open fire
  • From electricity — electrical shock and burns
  • Corrosive chemicals – like car battery acid
  • And so on…
    And, rarely:
  • Excessive exposure to sun rays
  • Exposure to radioactive material
  • Lightning accidents
  • And so on…

Bottom line is burns usually don’t feel good or look good!

The problems with burns accident include:

  • Pain: burns and scald are usually painful
  • Infection: because the skin, which is a barrier, is breached (alongside other factors), burn wounds are prone to infections. That’s another problem.
  • Loss of function: One of the problems with burns is that if it is serious, it could lead to difficulty or inability to use the affected site. Sometimes, they heal with a scar that causes loss of function of that part of the body.
  • Aesthetically unappealing: Burns and their healing scars don’t look good. They are usually ugly. This is not what we want.

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The goal of this podcast and article is “to help us minimize these effects and complications of burns and scalds”.

There are several ways of classifying burns which, for the purpose of this platform, might be too technical. I will simply divide burns into minor burns and major burns — in order to help you know when (and how) to treat burns at home and when to rush to the hospital!

Minor burns would heal on their own, and so you could handle them at home. Major Burns require professional medical attention, and you might have to see a doctor.

Minor Burns: Light, minor burn or scald from hot objects e.g. handling a hot pot handles with bare hands. Here, damage is to the outer layer of skin. The skin is usually reddish, swollen, and very painful. And, sometimes, blisters may be formed. Like when boiling water comes in contact with the skin

Major Burns: are usually deeper, larger and, sometimes, found at joints. These are very serious burns. If blisters are formed on face, feet, hands, groin, joints, they are classified as major burns. Sometimes, the deeper layers of the skin are affected —and you might be able to see muscles, fats, and bones! Rush to the hospital!

There are other severe forms of burns that also require immediate medical attention:

  • Extreme low temperature — snow and ice
  • Chemical burns
  • Electrical burns
  • Any burns on groin, buttocks, hips, knee, ankle, shoulders, wrist,and so on.


1: Calm the person down. Reassure the person. Remove every clothing or jewelry around the burn site.
2. Keep the burn site under cool (not cold!) running water — especially chemical burns — for at least 5 minutes. Do not apply ice directly on the skin.
3. Wash your hands thoroughly and then wash the burn site with soap and water. Do not pop blisters.
4. If you have petroleum jelly or aloe Vera gel, apply it. If the skin is exposed or the blister is popped, apply a clean gauze daily to cover the site. Honey could be helpful but, sometimes, there is risk of infection.
5. If it is minor, and you are taking care of it at home, you could then take some pain medicines (like feldene) to relieve the pain. If you haven’t had a tetanus (T.T) injection recently, make sure you get a shot in order to avoid tetanus infection.

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1. Never break blisters or remove any peeling skin
2. As it heals, it might itch. Do not scratch; simply rub lightly.
3. It might heal with a scar. If you are worried about how the scar is appearing, see your doctor.
4. If you notice an increase in pain, redness, swelling, pus, and fever, see your doctor. These are signs of infection.
5. Minor wounds may take some time to heal — about 3 to 7 days. Be patient.
6. Applying ice directly to the skin is not advisable as it might cause more skin damage.
7. Applying cotton wool is also not advisable. Small fibers can get stuck and become a source of infection
8. Do not apply butter, egg, palm oil, sand, saliva, and so on to the wound.
9. If it was a burning house, rush to put person in an open space for fresh air.
10. If a piece of clothing is stuck in the burn wound, leave it there. The medical people will take care of it.

Prevention of burns

It wouldn’t be a good way to conclude if I do not mention some preventive measures. This is just a tiny list. Prevention is usually a long list!

1. Always put electrical switches off and switch off electrical appliances after use.
2. If you could, try and put gas cylinders outside your homes and out of the reach of children.
3. If you could afford it, install a fire alarm or gas-leak alarm. It is life saving
4. Always have fire extinguisher in an easily accessible, clearly visible place; and teach everyone how to use it.
5. Always lock up fire lighters and matches; and keep them out of the reach of children.


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