Understanding Burn

The skin is the largest organ of the body, with one of the most important roles. It protects us from harmful elements and provides us with sensation. When we experience a skin injury, we may be susceptible to germs and other bacteria that may be life-threatening(1). 

One of the most serious skin injuries is caused by burns and scalds. A study by Mani, et al. in 2019, brings attention to the severity of the concern among children and Malaysians who lose a child every fourteen days over a preventable burn injury(2)

What are burns and scalds?

Burns are tissue damages that can be caused by exposure to heat, electricity, radiation, chemicals, and over-exposure to the sun(3). Burn injuries are caused by dry heat like exposure to fire or the sun. Scald, on the other hand, is caused by wet heat like steam or hot liquids. Treatment for these skin injuries is determined by its location and how serious the damage is(4).

skin burn

When you have a skin injury caused by burns or scalds, seek immediate medical attention when you observe the following symptoms(5):

  • Deep burns
  • Dry or leathery skin
  • Patches of white, black, or brown skin
  • The injury is more than 3 inches or on sensitive areas such as the head and face, groin, hands, feet, neck, or any major joint
Mother and kid

Minor scalds and burn injuries could be treated at home. No further consultation is needed as long as the skin injury is small and not located in critical areas such as the face, groin, major joints, etc. But in cases where you do not know what to do, consult a burn unit or medical professional(6).

For minor burn injuries(5, 6),
Cool the burn. In scalds and burn injuries, it’s important to immediately remove the source of heat and cool the burn. You can do this by running cool water on the affected area. Make sure to use cool water only and not cold water as this can cause further damage to the skin injury.

Do not constrict the skin injury. Swelling is common in scald and burn injuries. Remove clothing or accessories that may constrict the affected area. For dressing wounds, you can lay a cling wrap to protect the skin injury from the elements. 
Avoid removing blisters. Blisters with fluid should not be removed as this protects against infection. In cases when the blister is removed, clean the area. You can also apply antibiotic ointment or antiseptic creams to the area. Please consult your doctor or pharmacist prior to using.

Apply ointment. Selecting a suitable ointment to relieve pain associated with burns is a crucial step. The ointment should contain anti-inflammatory properties to help curtail the pain. However, avoid using the ointment for children below the age of 2 years old.

protect home icon

To protect yourself and your family from scald and burn injuries, make sure to adopt safety procedures against fire(7)

Properly handle hot food and containers. In handling hot liquids or food, make sure to use potholders or cooking mitts. Place hot containers away from edges to avoid possible spillage.

Do not leave cooking food or electronics unattended. Both are fire hazards that may endanger anyone. Prevent scald and burn injuries by minimizing risks.

Install smoke detectors. Always be aware of your surroundings and immediately act once smoke is detected. Be sure to install this in accessible areas. Fire can spread quickly and even smoke inhalation could be dangerous.

Establish fire drills and procedures. Talk to your family on what to do in case there’s a fire and how they can avoid burn injuries.

  1. What kids should know about skin (n.d). Retrieved on September 8, 2020 from https://www.aad.org/public/parents-kids/healthy-habits/parents/kids/about-skin
  2. Preventing fire and burn among children in Malaysia: a research-driven education initiative (2019). Retrieved on September 8, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7187112/
  3. Burns - Symptoms & Causes (2020). Retrieved on September 8, 2020 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/burns/symptoms-causes/syc-20370539
  4. Minor burns and scalds to adults (n.d). Retrieved on September 8, 2020 from https://www.sja.org.uk/get-advice/first-aid-advice/effects-of-heat-and-cold/burns-and-scalds/
  5. Burns: First aid (2018). Retrieved on September 8, 2020 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-burns/basics/art-20056649
  6. First aid and treatment of minor burns (2004). Retrieved on September 8, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC428524/
  7. Burn Treatment & Prevention Tips for Families (2019). Retrieved on September 8, 2020 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/Pages/Treating-and-Preventing-Burns.aspx