Did you know that today marks the beginning of National Burns Awareness Month? The initiative runs for the entire month of June and aims to raise greater awareness of the correct first aid treatment for minor burns and dispel the myths and home remedies that often surround burns.
The month itself is an initiative driven by the Julian Burton Burns Trust, and one that we believe to be an important opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of burn injuries, and the stories of those who have survived more serious burns.
One of the main foci for this month is dispelling the rumours around how best to treat a minor burn – as unfortunately, research shows that two in three Australians mistakenly believe that minor burns can be treated with various ‘home remedies’.
Regrettably, a number of these home remedies can actually do more harm than good, which is why the main message for the month is to remember to ‘Remove, Cool, Cover’ when it comes to a burn injury.
Given the focus of the month, we thought it pertinent to further cover these areas.
Treatment of a Minor Burn Injury
This is general advice for first aid treatment of a minor burn injury:
- Ensure you have removed yourself, the injured person and any others from danger;
- You should remove any clothing or jewellery from the burn area to allow effective cooling of the burn. Please note that this is to be taken in consideration of the injury itself, should the item be ‘stuck’ to the burn area, please do not remove, instead seek immediate medical treatment.
- Cool the burn by placing it under cool running water for at least 20 minutes. It’s important that this is running water, not ice, a cool cloth or still water;
- If running water is unavailable, use a hydrogel;
- Do not use ice, butter, toothpaste, creams or ointments as these may make the burn worse.
- If available, minor burns can be covered with a hydrogel (such as Burnaid) to assist in relieving the pain. Practically speaking, keeping a hydrogel available in the home is a great idea;
- You should then cover the burn with a clean dressing.
These three simple steps are important in treating and managing minor burn injuries, however it’s important to assess the injury and seek formal medical treatment if you think the burn is more severe, or you’re unsure about treating it yourself.
Identification of Burn Injuries
The treatment of minor burns as outlined above is important information and following these steps could certainly mean a more effective treatment of burns which may lead to a smoother recovery. However, it’s also very important to understand what a minor burn injury is and when this home first aid can be applied, or if formal medical treatment is required.
A quick rule is that where any burn affects the face, genitals, a major joint, or is more than about 7cm in size, you should seek immediate, formal medical treatment. In terms of a ‘major joint’ this includes any burn which affects your; knee, ankle, foot, spine, shoulder, elbow or forearm – however you can also use best judgement here for other affected areas.
We also believe it’s important to understand the types of burn injuries, so that you can best manage the response to any incident involving a burn.
Minor or first-degree burns: these burns are the ones that you can typically treat at home, with the steps outlined above. These burns are superficial, meaning that the damage is only to the first layer of the skin and the skin is still able to function – controlling body temperature and protecting the body from foreign objects and infection.
Again, it’s important to note the rule above regarding further medical treatment.
Partial-thickness or second degree burns: these burn injuries are when the damage of the burn goes deeper than the first layer of skin, or into the dermis (the name of the next layer of skin). These burn injuries typically see some degree of loss of skin function and a visible sign for detecting these is the presence of blisters at the burn site.
Unfortunately, when the first layer of the skin falls away there is fluid loss which leads to heat loss and the inability to prevent infection – a major concern for these burn injuries. Because of the nerve cells located in the dermis, which are exposed during second degree burns, these burns are more painful for the injured person.
Full-thickness or third degree burns: this degree of burn injury is when the first and second layers of skin are destroyed, as are the nerves. This leads to fluid loss, heat loss and infection. It can be difficult to identify the difference between a second degree and third degree burn and this sometimes isn’t determined until the injured person is assessed by medical professionals in a burn unit or emergency department.
It’s important to note that any burn where there are blisters or worse are considered serious and should be treated by medical professionals.
Forth degree burns: these burns are the most severe and unfortunately can damage the underlying bones, muscles or tendons and can often be characterised by a loss of sensation, as the nerve endings are destroyed.
Unfortunately, Queensland sees its fair share of burn injuries, including those from tragedies like Ravenshoe. Thankfully though, we have one of the premier burns units in Australia at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in Brisbane.
The work done here is saving lives and pioneering the ongoing research into and treatment of burn injuries. We’re honoured to be able to support some of the work conducted here, and more importantly, the patients and families affected by burn injuries via our support of Burnslife.
Working with Burnslife (& Charlotte)
This is a month that is particularly close to our firm’s heart, as we work closely with Burnslife – a leading Queensland burns support group and organisation, which is an initiative of the RBWH Foundation.
We first got involved with Burnslife in 2015, through one of our clients at the time, Charlotte. Charlotte suffered life-changing burns in 2014.
During the recovery process Charlotte noticed that while burns support groups existed in other states, Queensland was lacking a burns support group – a vital part of recovery helping people to process what has happened and deal with life post-burns injury. Alongside a number of other burns patients, staff and the RBWH Foundation, she helped to established Burnslife.
Originally a small support group for burns survivors and their families, Burnslife has continued to grow. While the core support group still exists, they also run education seminars, provide helpful documentation for patients and families and run fundraising to provide these initiatives and equipment to the RBWH Burns Department.