How to Treat Burn Injuries

How to Treat Burn Injuries

In general people do not believe that they will fall victim to any type of injury. The saying remains: it will never happen to me… to the detriment of countless victims or care takers who were uninformed about what to do when they or a loved one should suffer such a calamity. Education about how to treat burn injuries are often neglected despite the devastating, long-term physical and emotional effects of such injuries. Even the specialised care facilities for burn injuries are few in numbers and not always fully equipped.

Statistics reveal that more than a million people in Africa get injured due to burns and 6-10% of deaths are due to burns. A Medical Research Council in South Africa believes that about 3.2% of people in South Africa will be involved in some sort of a burn accident each year.

There are different types of burns with different causes, e.g.: scalding burns caused by hot, boiling liquids, chemical burns, electrical burns, fires, and severe sun damage. Burns have different degrees of severity and it is vital to assess the damage before taking any action.

It can help tremendously to know how to treat burn injuries and what to do, and what NOT to do to help prevent scarring, disability, and deformity.
A first-degree burn is usually minor like a sunburn that is red and painful with a little swelling. It does not normally require serious medical attention and can be treated from home. Sunburn can be prevented by using an SPF of at least a Factor 30 or higher. Below we will give some tips on how to treat burn injuries depending on the type of burn injury the person has.

Home treatment for 1st or 2nd degree burns (BUT only if the 2nd degree burn area is small):

  • Gently wash the affected area with lukewarm water and place cool cloths on the burn. NEVER put BUTTER on any burn.
  • Remove all jewellery since it can cut into the skin when swelling occurs.
  • Pain and swelling can be soothed by applying lotions with either Aloe Vera and/or Vitamin E, or a Medical Burn Dressing.
  • Pain medication can be administered to the patient only if you are absolutely certain that it is safe for the patient to use.
  • As long as there is no secondary complications that arise, patients will normally recover naturally over time.

Please note: Seek immediate medical care should there be concerns that the wound might be more severe.

A second-degree burn is deeper and more serious, with inflammation and blisters, but it can also be treated at home if the body area that is affected is relatively small.

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Increase of pain.
  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Signs of infection that may include: Nausea (with or without vomiting), decreased urination, dizziness, headaches, light-headedness, and thirst.
  • Symptoms are more severe or frequent.


If a person catches on fire, they have a natural reflex to panic and run around or away to the nearest water outlet.


  • Tell the person to drop to the floor in a rolling motion and try to extinguish the flames.
  • Throw a blanket, jacket, or any piece of clothing at hand over the person to help put out the flames and call your local emergency number.
  • Make sure there are no burning material touching the person. Ensure the person breathes properly and the burned body part is elevated above the heart level.
  • Continue to monitor the breathing, blood pressure, and pulse until the emergency services arrive.


  • Apply any household remedy such as butter, ice, or ointments to the affected area.
  • Never try to remove clothing from the victim.
  • Never place a pillow under the victim’s head, it may cause difficulty to breathe.
  • Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink.
  • Never throw cold water over a serious burn, it may cause the body to go into a state of shock and the victim might get hypothermia.
  • Don’t touch or blow on the injured skin.


Treatment for other 3rd degree burns:

  • Phone the emergency services immediately (should you suspect a chemical burn, phone the local poison unit).
  • Treat the victim for shock and elevate the burned part of the body so that it is above the level of the heart.
  • Remove any jewellery or constricting items since the burn site and its surrounds can swell up and then suffer constriction.
  • In case of breathing difficulties, begin to apply Artificial Respiration (Mouth-to-Mouth).


If the burn was caused by an Electrical Wire, NEVER touch the victim directly but make use of a non-metallic article to move the person to a safe place before applying first aid.

Electrical/chemical burns need urgent medical care because there can be serious internal damage to the body.

A healing burn wound needs to be protected from the cold to prevent the development of frostbite and it should also be protected from the sun by using a strong sunblock or by covering up the area when outside and exposed.

As you can see from the above information; it’s vital to know how to treat burn injuries. We encourage you to share this article with your friends and family to spread this important information that can save someone’s life.

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