A burn is an injury to the skin or other organic tissue primarily caused by heat or due to radiation, radioactivity, electricity, friction or contact with chemicals.

A scald is a burn or other injury caused by hot liquid or steam.

Thermal (heat) burns occur when some or all of the cells in the skin or other tissues are destroyed by:

  • hot liquids (scalds)
  • hot solids (contact burns),
  • flames (flame burns).

Chemical burns from corrosive chemicals

  • Remove the chemical that caused the burn
  • Rinse the skin under running water for 10 to 20 minutes
  • If the chemical came into contact with the eyes, rinse the eyes continuously for at least 20 minutes before seeking emergency care.

Direct burns from flames

  • Stop the burning process by removing clothing and irrigating the burns.
  • Extinguish flames by allowing the patient to roll on the ground, or by applying a blanket, or by using water or other fire-extinguishing liquids.
  • Use cool running water to reduce the temperature of the burn.
  • Wrap the patient in a clean cloth or sheet and transport to the nearest appropriate facility for medical care

Burns from contact with hot objects

  • stop contact with the hot object.
  • Cool the injured area with water (not ice) within 30 seconds. This may limit the extent and severity of the burn.
  • Run the burned body part, immediately under cool tap water for several minutes.

Scalds from hot liquids

  • immediately get the person away from the heat source to stop the burning
  • cool the burn with cool or lukewarm running water for 20 minutes – don’t use ice, iced water, or any creams or greasy substances such as butter
  • remove any clothing or jewellery that’s near the burnt area of skin, including babies’ nappies – but don’t move anything that’s stuck to the skin
  • make sure the person keeps warm – for example, by using a blanket, but take care not to rub it against the burnt area
  • cover the burn by placing a layer of cling film over it – a clean plastic bag could also be used for burns on the hand
  • use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat any pain
  • if the face or eyes are burnt, sit up as much as possible, rather than lying down to help reduce swelling

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