Ouch! The Do’s and Don’ts of dealing with household burns

May is Burns Awareness Month Download The Chicken Sound. We help you separate fact from fiction when dealing with a minor burn.

First things first, what exactly is a burn? A burn happens when the cells in your skin are destroyed or damaged by any type of heat. If skin cells are destroyed by a hot liquid, this is called a scald, if by a hot solid (e.g. a piece of coal or hot stove), this is called a contact burn, or if by a flame, this is known as a flame burn.

The treatment for burns will depend on how much of the skin has been damaged and how deep the burn is. The good news is that minor burns can be treated successfully at home and generally heal up very well.

When to take a burn to the doctor

Go to the clinic when:

  • There are burns that cover the face, hands, feet, groin, genitals or a very large area of your body
  • A burn is very deep – this means you will be able to see the muscle and fat underneath your skin
  • It is your baby or someone who has a weak immune system who has been burnt (e.g. someone who has diabetes, TB or who is HIV positive)
  • You have been burnt by chemicals or electricity or are struggling to breathe

The “do’s” of treating a minor burn at home

Put your burn into some cool water. Running water is best, but anything cool will do! Leave it there for at least 20 minutes. By cooling down the burn, you stop any further damage to the skin, plus you reduce the amount it will swell. Once the burn has cooled down, dry it gently and put on a gauze bandage. Stay away from fluffy materials like cotton wool that may get stuck to the damaged skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burn, reduces pain and protects blistered skin.

Read  What to include in your first aid kit

The “don’ts” of treating a minor burn at home

Firstly, don’t rub any home remedies onto the burn like oil, butter, or mayonnaise! Remember that anything you put onto a burn forms a barrier that holds the heat IN. This heat can continue to damage your skin, which is why you want to get heat OUT!

Secondly, don’t ever prick, peel, tear, touch or poke the blisters or peeling skin. This will only irritate the skin and may cause an infection (plus it can also be quite sore!). If there are any blisters, they will burst on their own and your body will get rid of the old skin when it’s ready.

Keep these do’s and don’ts handy and educate your whole family so that you make sure you know exactly what to do in the case of a fire or burn. Being prepared for an emergency can be the best safety tool of all!