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How to treat a burn

Bonfire night is a wonderful time of year and a great excuse to get family and friends together. It does, however, come with a few risks attached. Sparklers burn at up to 20 times the boiling point of water – that’s 2000 degrees Celcius! Fireworks travel up to 150 miles per hour. Whether you’re attending a professionally organised event or letting off your own fireworks in the garden, accidents can happen and people get hurt. Over 500 children under 16 are rushed to A&E in the four weeks surrounding bonfire night.

Make sure you get clued up on safety precautions (there is some great information available here – and read on for what to do if something does go wrong…

Burns: The Dos and Don’ts

Try to stop whatever is causing the burn as quickly as you can to minimise the damage. Get the person away from the area and put any flames out using water or a blanket.

Remove clothing or jewellery from around the affected area of skin. You don’t want anything to get stuck to the burn or trap heat around it. Jewellery can also cause issues if there is any swelling.

Remove anything that’s stuck to the burn. This could cause more damage to the burnt skin.

Place the burnt skin under water for as long as possible. Make sure the water temperature is cool or lukewarm.

Use ice-cold water, ice or any items from the freezer. You should never put ice directly on to skin. Also, do not put any creams, oils or greasy substances on the burn.

Keep the person warm to prevent hypothermia. Unlikely as it seems with a burn, this is still a risk as you are trying to cool the burnt area and the body temperature can drop as a result.

Put blankets or clothing onto the burnt area. You need to keep the person warm, without trapping heat around the burn itself. You also don’t want any clothing to get stuck to it.

Put a layer of cling film over the burnt area of skin. Cling film won’t stick to the skin and it’s clear, so a doctor can see and assess the injury. If the burn is on the person’s hand, you can use a clean, clear plastic bag over it.

Wrap cling film all the way around a limb. This can create pressure if the burnt area then swells.

Give the person ibuprofen or paracetamol to help with the pain, as long as they are not allergic.

Give aspirin to children under the age of 16.

Let the person lie down if there are burns to the face or eyes. Staying upright will help to reduce the swelling.

When do you need to go to A&E?

If the person burnt has any of the following injuries or symptoms, follow the steps above and then take them to A&E for medical attention as quickly as possible.

  • Deep burns or burns larger than their hand
  • Any burns that cause charred or white skin
  • Burns with blisters on the face, hands, arms, feet, legs or genitals
  • Any chemical or electrical burns
  • Signs of shock – shallow breathing, cold and clammy skin, sweating, weakness and dizziness

You should also take them to A&E if they:

  • Are under 5 years old
  • Are over 60 years old
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a medical condition such as diabetes or heart, lung or liver disease
  • Have a weakened immune system

If you are ever unsure of what to do, always seek medical help.


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