Burns and Burn Treatment

Burn Treatment

The quick and correct treatment of burns is paramount to avoid the risk of life long injuries, scarring and or death. It can be difficult to tell the difference between burns, especially partial and full thickness but that is not critical to the initial treatment. The extent of the burn is more important.

There are 3 types of burns. Whilst it can be difficult to tell the difference between some burns, the initial treatment of the burn is the same. Initially the extent of the burn is more important than the type of burn.

  • Superficial  (first degree)– Superficial burns only damage the first or top layers of skin and are red and painful.
  • Partial thickness (second degree)– Partial thickness burns damage both the first and second layers of skin. The burn site will be red, peeling, blistered and swelling with clear or yellow-coloured fluid leaking from the skin. The burn site is very painful.
  • Full thickness (third degree) – Full thickness burns cause more extensive damage to both the first and second skin layers, as well as the underlying tissue. The burn is generally charred and/or black and can have white exposed fatty tissue. The burn can also damage the underlying muscle or bone. The nerve endings can be destroyed so there may be little to no pain at the burn site but the area around the burn site will be very painful.

First Aid for Burns

If a burn occurs, remove the patient from danger and place the burn under cold running water for 20 minutes up to 3 hours after the burn, the sooner the better. If water isn’t available use any clean cool liquid, for example beer or soft drink. Use commercial cooling gels only after a minimum of 20 minutes of cool runnning water, or if no cool water is available. Cooling is effective up to 3 hours after injury. If the patient gets cold cover unburnt areas to prevent heat loss. Cover the burnt area with a loose non-stick dressing, preferably clean material e.g. plastic cling film. Place the cling film over the burn but do not wrap around a limb. Do not use cling film on the face. Where feasable elevate burnt limbs to minimise swelling.

DO NOT peel off adheent clothing or burn’t substances.
DO NOT use ice or ice water to cool the burn as further tissue damage may result.
DO NOT break blisters.
DO NOT apply lotions, ointments, creams or powders.

Wash chemicals such as acids or alkalis with running water for at least 20 minutes. Be careful not to splash the chemical residue onto unaffected skin or others.

For superficial burns (first degree) administer pain relief, dress the wound with a clean dressing and carefully inspect from time to time to ensure the burn doesn’t become infected.

For partial thickness or full thickness burns (second and third degree), do not apply anything other than water until they are fully cooled and medically assessed.

Send for an ambulance if a significant burn or any doubt if this is a significant burn and place the burn under cold or luke warn running water for 20 minutes or until help arrives. Significant burns are;
– burns that involve adults and more than 10 percent of the total body (about the size of the arm or half the leg)
• burns of face, hands, feet, genitalia, perineum and major joints.
• full thickness burns greater than 5% of total body surface area
• electrical burns
• chemical burns
• burns with an associated inhalation injury
• circumferential burns of the limbs or chest
• burns in the very young or very old
• burns in people with pre-existing medical disorders that could complicate management, prolong
recovery, or increase mortality
• burns with associated trauma.
All infants and children with burns should be medically assessed.

Major burn complications

Complications from Major Burns can include;

  • Infection –  when the protective barrier of the skin is compromised the natural defense mechanisms of the skin are disrupted allowing bacteria, fungi or other microorganisms to enter the body and cause infection.
  • injury to lungs – If a person inhales hot air or smoke from a fire, it can burn the delicate tissues lining the respiratory tract, including the lungs. This can cause inflammation and swelling, making it difficult for the person to breathe.
  • hypovolaemia – also known as volume depletion or fluid loss, is a condition in which the body loses a significant amount of blood or other fluids, causing a decrease in the volume of blood circulating in the body.
  • heat loss (hypothermia) – Severe burns compromises the skins ability to regulate body temperature.

Medical treatment will include watching for complications, pai relief, application of cool running water, intravenous fluids and intensive medical monitoring. Sever burns

Self-care for burns

Ensure that major burns are assessed by a medical professional. After initial treatment you can take some measures to hasten recovery:

  • Get plenty of rest in order to recuperate..
  • Follow the self-care instructions from your medical professional.
  • Try to avoid moving or stretching the burn in order to decrease irriation and further extending the injury..
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed in order to decrease the risk of infection. Make sure you take the full course.
  • Do not get your dressing wet.
  • If you experience any unusual symptoms contact a medical professional immediately.

Where to get help

  • In the case of a major burn – or where breathing has been affected – call triple zero (000) for an ambulance immediately.
  • Contact your doctor (General Practitioner).
  • Go to the Emergency department of your nearest hospital.
  • Contact or go to a Burns unit
  • For those in Victoria Contact or go to
    Victorian Adult Burns Service at the Alfred Hospital
    155 Commercial Rd, Melbourne VIC 3004
    Phone: (03) 9076 3626

You can view the ANZCOR guideline 9.1.3 for First Aid Burns by clicking here.

For more information go to https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/burns-and-scalds

To learn what to do in the event of a burn, why not book into one of our Provide First Aid courses. Enrol here.

We sell a range of Burn and First Aid treatments. Check them out on our online shop by clicking here including the Regulator Burns First Aid Kit for 1 to 10 people (a), 1 to 25 people (b) and 1 to 50 people (c)