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The 15 Critical Do's And Dont's Of Burn First Aid

By: Barbara Muller, MD

Most people recall their parents warning them not to play with fire. While you may have resented such stern advice then, it's still important to know not only how to avoid burns but what to do in case one occurs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over a million burns reported every year, half requiring hospitalization. What you do immediately after a burn may help reduce the severity of the injury.

The treatment of a burn depends upon its severity. And severe burns require immediate medical attention. Third-degree burns are the most severe, damaging the entire thickness of the skin. These types of burns often result from contact with chemicals, hot liquids, or solids, or burning clothes. They char the skin and may cause nerve damage so deep that a sufferer will not feel pain. Victims of third-degree burns require, fluids, electrolytes and proteins provided through an IV; skin grafting; and a dietary supplements to speed healing of the wound.

Second-degree burns damage the first and second layer of skin. This type of burn also requires medical attention. Second-degree burns will cause blisters, cherry red skin or blotches of white skin.

First-degree burns are often caused by brief contact with hot water, steam, hot objects or overexposure to the sun. These burns damage only the top layer of the skin, causing swelling, redness and pain.

The following are some dos and don't about burn care:

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* Immediately cool under running water. Cool until the burning sensation subsides (10-15 minutes)
* Apply a cold compress
* Stop any bleeding
* Cover burn with a sterile pad
* Be sure that the victim is breathing; treat for shock if necessary
* Remove rings, belts, shoes, tight clothing or accessories before swelling occurs
* For first-degree burns only, apply ointment or lotion
* For chemical burns, remove any clothing that has contacted the chemical and continuously flush the eyes with water
* Seek medical attention for second- and third-degree burns

* Try to attend to a serious burn without medical attention
* Break blisters
* Apply butter or margarine
* Apply lotion or ointment to a second- or third-degree burn
* Remove any clothing that is stuck to a burn; cut around the fabric to clear as much as possible from the affected area
* If an electrical burn occurs, do not touch the victim; there may still be an electrical current. Pull the plug out at the wall or shut off the current at the source, and wait for medical help to arrive

Awareness of your risk is the first step to being safe in situation where a burn might occur. However, accidents do happen, so keep in mind the first steps in burn treatment, and in the case of second- and third-degree burns, see a medical professional for an evaluation.

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