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Burn                    CARE AND TREATMENT                       SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS                 Burn


Burns are injuries that damage and kill skin cells, and are most commonly a heat injury to the skin, but can also be caused by extreme cold.

Burns are most commonly caused by exposure to flames, hot objects, hot liquids, chemicals or radiation. Scalds are caused by contact with wet heat such as boiling fluids or steam. Electrical burns are less common, but have the potential to be more serious as the depth of the burn is usually greater than is apparent, and cardiac irregularities may occur.

As with most potentially serious injuries, prevention is better than cure. Keep household chemicals out of reach of children, and ensure that they are well marked and caps are screwed on tight. Keep hot objects, such as kettles, safely out of reach and make sure to turn off heaters and stoves when not in use. Also keep all electrical wires away from water, and socket caps over all unused electrical sockets.

Burns are classified as either:

  • Superficial - reddening (like sunburn)
    - outer layer of skin only
  • Partial thickness - blistering
    - damage to deeper layers of skin
  • Full thickness - whitish, or blackened areas
    - damage to all layers of skin, plus underlying structures and tissues

The severity of burns is dependent on certain factors such as; the age of the casualty, the depth of the burns, the part of the body burnt, and the area affected.




  • red, blistered, white or blackened skin
  • pain in superficial and partial thickness burns
  • shock
  • breathing difficulties

hoarse voice and/or snoring sound when breathing




  • cool only with clean water if possible, and resist using other substances
    • up to 20 minutes for thermal or radiation burns
    • 20-30 minutes for chemical burns
    • up to 30 minutes for bitumen burns
  • cover with a clean, non-adherent burn dressing (or plastic wrap etc.)
  • remove tight clothing and objects, eg. jewellery
  • Call 115
  • treat for shock if the burn is severe
  • ensure that contaminated clothing is removed unless it is adhering to the burn

flush chemicals from the skin, pay special attention to eyes


  • DO NOT break blisters
  • Ensure that the cooling process does not become excessive and cause shivering.

Burns to the face may have an effect on the casualty’s breathing, and these effects may take some time to appear. It is important that any casualty who has inhaled smoke, fumes or superheated air, or has been burnt on the face, seeks medical aid as soon as possible after the incident. A doctor should see infants or children who receive any burns.


Severe burns can lead to shock and massive infection if not treated properly!


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