How to Manage First Degree Burns

There are three types of burns that are classified according to degree of severity: first degree burns, second degree burns, third degree burns and fourth degree burns, the most superficial of which are the first degree burns. First degree burns are the most superficial burns as they only affect the epidermis or the outer layer of the skin, thus they are also called superficial burn.

Causes of First Degree Burns

By taking the right precautions, most first degree burns can be prevented. The best way to prevent these kinds of burns is by knowing what causes them. The list below shows some of the common causes of first degree burns

  • Scalds (common in children) – spilling of hot liquid, usually from a pot on the stove, to the face, body, arms or taking a bath in very hot waters
  • Sunburn – staying under the sun too long without application of an ample amount of sunscreen
  • Electricity – touching the openings of electrical sockets, cords and appliances

Signs and Symptoms of First Degree Burns

The following are signs and symptoms of first degree burns that are often mild and disappear with a few days:

  • Redness of the skin affected
  • Painful to touch, that usually lasts from 48 – 72 hours before subsiding
  • Swelling
  • Dry
  • No blisters
  • Peeling may occur after a day or two
  • Temporary skin discoloration, especially after peeling
  • For first degree burns that cover a large area of skin, there may be increases swelling and pain

First Aid Treatment and Management for First Degree Burns

Most first degree burns can be treated at home and do not require medical attention. Applying proper first aid, which can be learned by enrolling in First Aid Classes, would usually suffice. However, if the pain or swelling becomes extreme or does not subside within a few days or, becomes infected, or if an individual receives first degree burns that raise concern, it may be best to consult with a doctor. To apply first aid treatment on first degree burns, follow the next steps:

  • Soak the area of burn in a cool (not iced) water bath or run cool water over it for at least five minutes. Placing a clean, wet and cold towel may also decrease pain.
    Apply cool water on first degree burns

    Apply cool water on first degree burns

  • Do not apply ice, ointment, toothpaste or butter (any type of oil) on the area of burn. These may further aggravate the burn and prevent its healing.
  • Cover the burn area with a sterile dressing or a dry and clean bandage.
  • Ensure that the burn is protected from friction or pressure.
  • To help minimize swelling and pain, over-the-counter (OTC) paracatamol or ibuprofen to the patient. It is not recommended to give aspirin to children under 12 years of age.
  • Moisturizing lotion can help ease the burn once the skin has already cooled.
  • Do not attempt to breathe, blow or cough on the burn.
  • Do not remove the dead or blistered skin on or around the area of burn.

First degree burns or superficial burns affect only the top layer of the skin that can usually be treated at home with proper first aid unless complications develop.

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