Burns & Scalds

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Burns & Scalds:


Although burns and scalds causes similar injuries / damage to the skin and underlying tissues, the difference between them is the way they are caused. Burns such as chemical, electrical, and irradiation have special features.


Burns to the mouth and throat can cause serious problems with breathing as airways can rapidly swell. If necessary place in recovery position and be prepared to resuscitate.


The extent of the burn will indicate whether shock is like to develop, as tissue fluid (serum) leaks from the burnt area and is replaced by fluid from the circulatory system.


Causes of Burns:


Burns are caused by dry heat:

  • Flame or radiation (thermal)
  • Electricity
  • Friction
  • Corrosive


Scalds are caused by wet heat:

  • Water
  • Steam
  • Fat
  • Hot liquid chemicals



  • Cool the burn with cold running water for 10 minutes (important).
  • Use any cold fluid that is immediately available until water is.
  • Remove jewellery i.e. rings, watches ASAP as the limb will swell.
  • Carefully remove loose clothing.
  • Boiling water and fat take a long time to cool down, remove wet or fat covered loose clothing as quickly as possible, then treat the burn/scald.
  • Dress the burn with a non-sticky dressing. Cling film is great , provided you have cooled the burn sufficiently (10) minutes, do not wrap tightly around the limb.
  • Use specialist burns dressing (water gel pads) if and when available.



  • Patients with burns or scalds are at risk from infection. Try and keep the inquiry clean and free of contamination


When to seek medical advice:

  • If the burns appears to be larger then a 50p piece.
  • If the patient is a child.
  • If the burn scalds goes all the way around a limb.
  • If any part of the burn appears to be full thickness.
  • If the burn involves hands, feet, genitals or face.
  • If you are not sure, seek medical advice.



  • Do not burst blisters under any circumstances as the fluid inside is usually sterile.
  • Do not apply any lotions, or ointments.
  • Do not touch the injuries unnecessarily.
  • Do not apply any adhesive dressings.
  • Do not remove clothing that has adhered to the burn.



We hope you find this article useful. This is one in an alphabetical series of articles addressing various symptoms and their first aid treatments. If you would like more information on related resuscitation and first aid training, please get in touch.


You might also be interested in our blog. One of our more popular articles is about quality or quantity when it comes to first aid training.



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Read 49090 times Last modified on Wednesday, 29 January 2014
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