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The ABCs of burns
Burns are a devastating form of trauma. These injuries are associated with high mortality rates, physical disabilities, lengthy rehabilitation as well as cosmetic disfigurement. Burning can happen in an instant, but it can be prevented by always being vigilant and through using basic safety precautions.
Know what a burn is
Sometimes, no matter how careful we might be accidents can occur. If your child does suffer a burn, it’s important to know what do to help him.
Burns are classified in three categories:
- Superficial burns: This type of burn only affects the top layer of skin and is usually caused by spilling hot drinks, like coffee or hot water. It commonly presents with tissue blanching (whitening) and redness of the skin, and is accompanied by a fair amount of pain. If a small surface area is affected you could apply burn gel (such as Burnshield) onto a piece of gauze and cover the wound with it. If you do not have any burn gel, place the affected area under tepid (not cold) water. If the burns cover more than 10% of your child’s total body surface area, like his whole arm, seek medical attention.
- Partial thickness burns: Affecting the two top layers of the skin, this type of burn forms blisters on the skin and is particularly susceptible to infection. These burns could also progress into full thickness burns. Partial thickness burns are commonly caused by open flames as well as boiling hot water. If a child sustains partial thickness burns, apply Burnshield™ dressings (the tea tree oil helps to combat infection) and seek medical attention immediately. You can also give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen for the pain. If your child has this kind of burn, it is very important that you keep the wound clean at all times to prevent infection. Do not apply alternative ointments or home remedies, as these may lead to infection.
- Full thickness burns: This type of burn affects all three layers of the skin as well as the nerve endings. This type of burn often looks wax-like or charred. This is the most serious type of burn because of the damage it does to the nerve endings. Full thickness burns are often not painful at all. A person’s first line of defence against any bacteria or viruses is the skin; full thickness burns destroy this barrier. For this reason, these burns have a high risk of infection and you should not underestimate their severity.Medical attention should be sought as a matter of urgency. Apply Burnshield™ and a bandage to the burn, and take your child to an emergency unit urgently, where the severity of the burn can be assessed
Keep infection at bay
In all instances of burns, it is of utmost importance to ensure that the wound is kept clean in order to prevent infection. Dressings should be changed every two to three days. If the wound oozes, becomes warm to the touch, or the child develops a fever, you should seek immediate medical attention as these are early indicators of infection. Do not break the skin where there are blisters, as this may lead to infection.
Better to be safe, than sorry
Of course, prevention is better than cure. So, don’t leave any hot drinks within reach of toddlers or leave them on unstable surfaces. Turn the handles of pots and pans inwards, or towards the back of your stove, and do not let your child play around a fire or open flame. Remember, although you may not think your coffee is very hot, to a child it is scorching. That baby skin that you love to touch has only been exposed to the elements for a short period of time and is not as hardy as yours. So take every precaution you need to in order to increase your child’s safety in and around the house.