First Aid Care for Burns

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Determining the extent of burns

One of the most important assessments for victims with burns is determining the severity of burns. Being able to correctly assess, determine and evaluate the severity of a burn requires an efficient estimation on how much body surface area the burn has covered. The Rule of the Hand is a tool in which paramedical personnel and medical professionals use to efficiently determine and estimate the size of a burn in relation to the entire body surface area. An adult victim’s entire palm of his/her hand represents approximately 1% of his/her total Body Surface Area (BSA).

Examine and evaluate which portion of the body is burned. It is important to consider that burns on the hands, face, feet and genitals are more pressing and severe than other parts of the body. Moreover, find out whether the injuries or other preexisting medical problems are present or if the victim is severely incapacitated, elderly or very young because an existing medical problem or belonging to any of the aforementioned groups dramatically increases the burn’s severity and complications.

First Aid Tips : How to Treat Second & Third-Degree Burns

Care for Thermal Burns

The main goal for immediate care for burns is aimed to reduce pain, prevent infection and to determine the need for immediate medical care. Most burns are relatively minor and can be easily managed without professional medical care.

If rescuers are on the scene where there is an active fire and burned victims, have the victim roll on the ground if clothing is actively burning. This method is known as the “stop, drop and roll” method which is generally effective in putting out flames on a person caught on fire. In addition, rescuers can also smother the flames with a wet blanket or drench the victim with water.

Care for victims with superficial burns

1. Flush the burn with cool running water until the part is pain free. Usually it takes about 10 minutes for the pain to dissipate.

2. Apply a skin moisturizer to keep the burnt area moistened and to reduce itching and peeling.

3. If necessary an overt-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen can help alleviate minor pain of discomfort for superficial burns.

Care for small second-degree burns (less than 10% BSA)

1. Follow steps one to two for the care of superficial burns.

2. Cover the burn loosely with a dry, nonstick sterile dressing. Never break any blisters to prevent infection.

3. Give over-the-counter pain medications as needed for pain.

4. Seek medical care for further management.

Care For large second-degree burns (more than 20% of BSA) and all third-degree burns

1. Clothing and jewelry that are not stuck to the burned area.

2. Cover the burn loosely with a dry, nonstick sterile bandage or a clean dressing if sterile materials are not available.

3. Lay the victim on his/her back with feet slightly above the head.

4. For severe full thickness burn with victim unconscious (probably due to smoke inhalation) initiate CPR with continued cycles of chest compressions and rescue breathing.

5. Immediately call for emergency help. Never take off any clothing that is stuck to the burn and cover burn areas with a clean cloth material until paramedics and emergency personnel arrive.


Alton, T. et al (2012). First Aid, CPR and AED Standard 6th Ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning

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