The healing and long-term outcome of burn care are significantly impacted by the initial care and timeliness of treatment. If a severe burn occurs due to heat or chemical exposure, then it is essential to visit the nearest emergency room as soon as possible. Even smaller burns should be treated appropriately to avoid common complications, such as infection and scarring.
Common Causes of Burns
Some of the most common causes of burns include:
- Heat from open flames or hot objects such as curling irons, stovetops, or irons
- Sun exposure can cause the skin to burn, sometimes resulting in second-degree burns
- Scalds can happen from hot water, steam, or hot food
- Chemicals around the house can damage the skin, such as cleaners, bleach, or battery acid
- Electricity generated from appliances or outlets
Types of Burns
When a chemical substance or high heat damages the skin, then several layers of the body tissue can be affected. Three classifications are used based on the severity of the burns:
- First-Degree Burn: This burn is minor and only damages the top layer of skin. Symptoms include minor swelling, pain, and redness.
- Second-Degree Burn: A mid-grade burn that damages not only the top layer but also some of the lower layers of skin. When a second-degree burn happens, the skin appearance splotchy or red with the appearance of blisters and swelling. The patient experiences quite a bit of pain.
- Third-Degree Burn: A severe burn that affects all layers of skin, as well as underlying muscle, fat, or bone. The skin will be black or charred white and might appear waxy or dry. Often, the patient has little or no pain because of the nerve damage that has occurred. Shock and death are possible due to fluid loss and severe tissue damage.
Do You Need Medical Services for a Burn?
The recommended treatment depends on the severity of the burn:
- First-Degree Burn: Basic first aid can be used at home for first degree burns. As soon as possible, it is crucial to run cool (not cold!) water over the burn or soak it in cool water for 5 – 10 minutes. Don’t use ice. Aloe vera can be applied, as well as antibiotic cream and gauze to protect against infection.
- Second-Degree Burn: Treatment is similar to a first-degree burn, and should include cool water and application of an antibiotic cream or aloe vera. Remove tight items, such as jewelry, before swelling occurs. When blisters are present, they should not be broken intentionally. If the blisters break on their own, then gently wash them and apply an antibiotic cream. Use a special wound gauze that won’t stick to the blisters.
- Third-Degree Burn: This serious burn needs emergency treatment as soon as possible. Call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room without delay. The burn should be covered with a clean, cool cloth. Keep the burned area elevated above the heart. Don’t remove clothing stuck to the burn and don’t immerse the burn in water.
If you are in doubt about the need for medical treatment, it is always best to consult with a doctor. Also, medical treatment is needed if you notice signs of infection, such as oozing from the wound or an increase in pain, swelling, or redness.
At iCare ER and Urgent Care, we provide both urgent care and emergency services in our clinic. An initial evaluation will be completed to determine if you require emergency services. Our experienced team is here 24/7 and prepared to treat everything from basic medical needs to severe trauma. Visit our emergency room, or call ahead if you would like to schedule an appointment: (214) 407-8668.