Simple First Aid for burns and scalds
Posted on 21st April 2021 at 07:31
Over the years we’ve noticed that the mention of “First Aid” – whether doing it yourself or being on the receiving end of an over enthusiastic, but well meaning, person (!) – seems to strike terror into the hearts of many people. Perhaps it sounds too “medical” or complicated. Or requiring lots of equipment and supplies. Thankfully, neither is the case.
It’s usually just a matter of using whatever’s to hand – and not necessarily from a well stocked first aid box – coupled with a little common sense. Although, as one Client rather ruefully put it, the later can sometimes be in rather short supply…
So, this week, let’s look at something we’ve all had to deal with over the years. Whether to ourselves or someone else. They’re one of the most common – and usually minor – accidents that happen at home. Minor burns or scalds.
While they’re often thought of as the same thing – and are very similar – they do differ in their cause. Burns are caused by dry heat, such as a fire or an iron. Scalds, on the other hand, are caused by wet heat such as steam from a kettle or hot water.
Regardless of the cause, the result is the same. Redness, swelling and mild pain. And, remember, these reflect both the damage to the Skin as well as the body’s immune system response. Swelling physically protects the area, as well as preventing any damage from spreading any further. It also reminds us to keep it still. This message is reinforced by pain / discomfort messages from Nerves in the area.
Burns and scalds are categorised into four different groups using several different criteria. The amount of damage, location, size and depth. However the last, depth, is seen as the most important because of the potential damage to deeper tissues coupled with an increased risk of infection.
First degree burns are superficial and cause Skin inflammation in a small area. The main symptoms are tenderness to the touch, redness and mild swelling. Think of the effects of a little too much sun and mild Sunburn.
Second degree burns go a little deeper and may include blistering of the Skin. Again, think of sunburn when it’s gone a bit further or a scald from steam.
Third degree burns go much deeper and affect all the layers of the Skin, effectively, killing that particular area of Skin. They leave the Skin looking white and leathery. It also damages the blood vessels and nerves, meaning that no pain – or very little – is felt.
Fourth degree burns are the most severe type when damage goes even deeper, to the Bones and Joints below.
Having now frightened you more than we’d like, we must quickly say that most people will only come across first or, at worst, second degree burns. And the good news is that, in most cases, these can be easily dealt with at home. However, as with all First Aid, if you’re at all concerned then it’s wise to seek medical advice. This is particularly the case with chemical burns although this doesn’t stop the area being cooled while waiting for help to arrive. Just make sure that the water doesn’t splash on other parts of the body – or bystanders.
The FIRST and most important thing with any burn or scald is to cool the area. This not only provides relief but also prevents further injury – to both the Skin itself and to stop it from going any deeper. And there are a few things to bear in mind here.
One, it takes much longer than you’d expect for the Skin to cool down, which is why the usual advice is to do so for AT LEAST 20 minutes.
Two – and this may sound counter intuitive – is to use LUKEWARM WATER rather than ice cold water. While this makes sense from a homeopathic point of view – treating like with like – the simple reason is that it’s much kinder to the Skin, letting it cool down more gently. We have also found there is less damage to the Skin and it heals much more quickly.
And, three, DO NOT be tempted to use a soothing gel – such as aloe vera – or the more traditional one of butter while the Skin is still warm. This is because, in the first instance, you want to cool the area down BEFORE doing anything else.
SECOND, once the area has completely cooled down – and so is less red, swollen and painful – then gently clean it. You can use mild soap or a little antiseptic in water to do so. If you use essential oils, a few drops of tea tree or lavender in the water will do a similar job. And the key word here is “gently”, no scrubbing is necessary! This will help prevent infections as well as supporting the general healing process.
THIRD, having cleaned the area, this is the time when you can use a little aloe vera or antiseptic cream, even Rescue Remedy cream. Lavender essential oil can also be used neat – only a few drops – to the area, again to aid healing and as a painkiller, as can local organic honey or manuka honey.
Honey, generally, is well known as being antibacterial and anti inflammatory. Studies have found that honey dressings are sterile, heal faster and have better outcomes than other commercially available products with many Doctors now using them for a variety of Skin conditions including Ulcers and slow healing wounds.
FOURTH, if the area is somewhere exposed or likely to chafe, then a plaster or bandage can be used to protect it, at least during the initial stages of healing. Just make sure a plaster is large enough so it doesn’t stick to the damaged Skin and, if using a bandage, don’t do it too tight. If practical, take the plaster or bandage off at night, to give the Skin some air, which will help healing.
FINALLY, keep an eye on the area. If there is anything to concern you, seek medical advice.
While the same comments apply to sunburn, a soak in a lukewarm bath with a handful of seasalt or a few drops of lavender essential oil – making sure the affected area is under the water – is the best first aid measure. If this involves the face, use a flannel regularly rinsed in lukewarm water as a compress for a similar effect. And, obviously, keep out of the sun and the area well covered with loose clothes or a hat until the burn has healed.
So, there you have it, simple and straightforward First Aid for burns and scalds.
As always, the choice is yours.
Photograph by unknown author
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