The British Burns Association (BBA) has produced updated information on first aid for burns. Properly and promptly implementing this advice has been shown to have positive impact on the outcome of a burn injury, helping to prevent further tissue damage and reduce subsequent morbidity. Here is a summary of the advice relating to first aid for thermal burns.
Firstly, the burning process must be halted by removing the person from the source of the burn, once it is safe to do so. Burning clothing should be extinguished with water if available or by the Stop, Drop and Roll method. Any electrical power sources should be safely isolated and chemical cross-contamination avoided. Any burned clothing should be removed, along with jewellery and contact lenses. Any molten or adherent clothing should be left in place.
The next step is to cool the burn, a process that should be delayed as little as possible. Use cool, running tap water on the burn for up to 20 minutes, within no more than three hours of the injury occurring. Do not continue cooling after 20 minutes as hypothermia may be induced. If water is not freely available, apply a compress of clean, wetted and lint-free cloth. Change the compress frequently. If there is no water available, cover the burn with cling film. Keep the patient warm by covering non-burned areas.
The burn should then be covered with non-adherent dressing, cling film or clean, lint-free cloth. Use loose, longitudinal strips and do not wrap film circumferentially around burned areas. Note that cling film should not be applied to facial burns. Seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.
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