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see also Burns and blisters. (merge these articles?)

Don't get burned![edit | edit source]

Most burns can be prevented. Take special care around children. Prevent them from going to an area without adult supervision where they may be burned, and store flammable chemicals and matches where they cannot reach them.

Be careful![edit | edit source]

  • Don't pick up hot tear gas containers unless you have heat-resistant equipment. You can burn your hands badly.
  • The jelly inside molotovs will stick to skin and burn. Avoid molotov fires.

If you are burned[edit | edit source]

  • Remove the source of the burn:
    • Stop, drop, and roll, or smother fire with a wool blanket.
    • If your clothes catch fire, remove them. Keep yourself calm and try not to breathe smoke.
    • Flush with water
but be careful not to get soaking wet. Even in warm weather you can get dangerously cold, because of damage to your skin which regulates body heat.
  • Then, decide how serious the burn is and if you need help right away.
    • If you inhaled smoke, were burned around your nose, mouth, or neck, or have trouble breathing, you need immediate help.
    • If you were burned badly to the hands, feet, face, or genitalia, you need immediate help.
    • If the burn is large or goes all the way around a body part, you need immediate help.
    • If you have any broken bones, you need immediate help.
  • See when you must go to the hospital.

Treatment[edit | edit source]

In addition to the following recommendations, you may want to use helpful traditional treatments such as medicinal teas.

Minor burns that do not form blisters (1st degree)[edit | edit source]

To help ease the pain and lessen the damage caused by a minor burn, put the burned part in cold water at once. No other treatment is needed. Take aspirin for pain.

Burns that cause blisters (2nd degree)[edit | edit source]

  • Do not break blisters.
  • Gently wash with soap and clean water.
  • You may apply nothing, honey, or aloe to the burn. Cover with a clean banana leaf or a sterile non-stick (Telfa) gauze.
  • Clean the wound and put on a new dressing every time it gets dirty or every day until the burn has healed.
    • If the dressing is stuck, you can soak it off with warm salt water (1 teaspoon salt to 1 liter water). If possible, add 2 tablespoons of bleach to the salt water. These soaks also clean the burn and prevent infection.
  • If the blisters are broken, treat the wound in the same way, only be even more careful to keep it clean and covered.
  • Never smear on grease or butter.

It is very important to keep the burn as clean as possible. Cover it to protect it from dirt, dust, and flies.

  • If signs of infection appear-- pus, bad smell, fever, or swollen lymph nodes:
    • Apply compresses of warm salt water 3 times a day. 2 tablespoons of bleach added to the water will do a great deal to treat the infection.
    • With great care, remove the dead skin and flesh. You can spread on honey or a little antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin.
    • In severe cases, consider taking an antibiotic such as penicillin or ampicillin. (See note about penicillin.)

Aloe vera (Sabila) can be used to treat minor burns. The thick, slimy juice inside the plant calms pain and itching, and aids healing. Cut off a piece of the plant, peel back the outer layer, and apply the fleshy leaf or juice directly to the burn. Gently wash the burn and put on new Aloe at least twice a day.

Deep burns (3rd degree)[edit | edit source]

  • Deep burns that destroy the skin and expose raw or charred flesh are always serious, as are any burns that cover large areas of the body. Take the person to a health center at once. In the meantime wrap the burned part with a very clean cloth or towel.
  • If it is impossible to get medical help, treat the burn as described above.
  • If you do not have clean banana leaves or non-stick (Telfa) dressings, you can leave the burn in the open air, covering it only with a loose cotton cloth or a sheet to protect it from dust and flies. Keep the cloth very clean and change it each time it gets dirty with liquid or blood from the burn.
  • Give penicillin. (See note about penicillin.)

Never put grease, fat, hides, coffee, herbs, or feces on a burn.

Covering the burn with honey helps prevent and control infection and speed healing. Gently wash off the old honey and put on new at least twice a day.

Special precautions for very serious burns[edit | edit source]

Any person who has been badly burned can easily go into shock because of combined pain, fear, and the loss of body fluids from the burn.

  • Comfort and reassure the burned person. Give him aspirin for the pain and codeine if you can get it. Bathing open wounds in slightly salty water also helps calm pain. Put 1 teaspoon of salt for each liter of cool, boiled water.
  • Studies have shown that persons with very serious burns are more likely to survive if they have social support and friendship while they recover.
  • Give the burned person plenty of liquid. If the burned area is large (more than twice the size of his hand), make up the following drink:
    • To a liter of water add:
    • half a teaspoon of salt
    • and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
    • Also put in 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar or honey and some orange or lemon juice if possible.

The burned person should drink this as often as possible, especially until he urinates frequently. He should try to drink 4 liters a day for a large burn, and 12 liters a day for a very large burn.

  • It is important for persons who are badly burned to eat foods rich in protein, such as beans, milk, eggs, fish, and meat. No type of food needs to be avoided.

Burns around the joints[edit | edit source]

  • When someone is badly burned between the fingers, in the armpit, or at other joints, banana leaves or non-stick (Telfa) dressings should be put between the burned surfaces to prevent them from growing together as they heal.
  • Also, fingers, arms, and legs should be straightened completely several times a day while healing. This is painful but helps prevent stiff scars that limit movement. While a burned hand is healing, the fingers should be kept in a slightly bent position.

Note about penicillin[edit | edit source]

  • For most people penicillin is one of the safest medicines. Too much does no harm and only wastes money. Too little does not completely stop the infection and may make the bacteria resistant (more difficult to kill).
  • In certain persons penicillin causes allergic reactions. Mild allergic reaction include itchy raised spots or rashes. Often these come several hours or days after taking penicillin and may last for days. Diphenhydramine or Benadryl, taken as directed, help calm the itching.
  • Rarely, penicillin causes a dangerous reaction called anaphylactic shock. Soon after penicillin is swallowed (or injected), the person suddenly gets pale, has trouble breathing, and goes into the state of shock. Epinephrine (Adrenalin) must be injected at once.
  • Always have epinepherine ready when you give penicillin.
  • A person who has once had any allergic reaction to penicillin should never be given any kind of penicillin, ampicillin or amoxicillin again, either by mouth or injection. This is because the next time would likely be far worse and might kill him. (But stomach upset from taking penicillin is not an allergic reaction, and no cause to stop taking it.)
  • Dosage of penicillin by mouth-- using tablets of 250 mg. (20 to 60 mg./kg./day):
    • adults: 1 or 2 tablets (250-500 mg.) 4 times a day
    • children 7-12: 1 tablet (250 mg.) 4 times a day
    • children 2 to 6: 1/2 tablet (125 mg.) 3 or 4 times a day
  • Important: Keep taking the penicillin for at least 5 days, and for 2 or 3 days after fever and other signs of infection are gone. If improvement does not begin within 2 or 3 days, try to get medical advice (but do not stop taking the medicine).
  • To help the body make better use of the medicine, always take penicillin on an empty stomach, an hour before meals. (This is more important for penicillin G than for penicillin V.)

When you must go to the hospital[edit | edit source]

You do not need to wait until you have any of these problems to go to the hospital. However, if you have been waiting and you have any of the following problems, you must do anything in your power to go to the hospital. Blistering burns to significant areas with any of the following:

  • high or rising fever (over 101.5 in adults) after the initial day not responding to penicillin (or if penicillin unavailable)
  • red line from the burn area toward the center of the body not promptly responding to penicillin (or if penicillin is not available)
  • burns of the face with ANY evidence of infection (pus, increasing rather than healing, increasing redness or swelling after initial improvement.)
  • burns involving eye structures
  • burns over more than 15% of the adult body (the size of the skin of one arm)
  • burns around the neck
  • evidence of dehydration with inability to take in oral fluids - remember that the smaller in size the person the easier it is to lose fluid and the harder it is to replace it
  • change in mental status such as delirium, hallucinations, delusions etc.
  • any deep, third degree burns especially of head & neck area, hand, finger, or around a limb

What may be at stake is losing life for what could have been a minor injury.

Notes[edit | edit source]

En español: Primeros auxilios para quemaduras The size of the skin of an arm (back and forth) is only 9% not 15%


This material is intended as a training supplement. Reading this material is no substitute for first aid / medical training with a qualified trainer. We encourage you to pursue ongoing education, reviewing and upgrading your skills-- for the safety of both yourself and anyone you care for.

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