Introduction to Burn Treatment
Burn treatment, care and subsequent healing is probably not a topic that the average person would read about if given the choice between a good book or magazine article. However, burn accidents do happen, and survivors, caregivers and family members have to deal with the uphill battle of recovery and returning to a normal quality of life.
The pain, discomfort and amount of time it takes to recover from this sort of injury makes for a traumatic experience for everyone concerned.
In North America, almost 2.5 million burns are treated in hospitals each year – most of these could have been prevented. We hope the information provided here can help to greatly reduce that number by creating awareness of the traumatic nature of burn injuries and providing some simple common sense measures that can be taken to prevent them.
With this in mind, we like to think the purposes on this site are as follows:
A. To create awareness of the nature and seriousness of burns.
B. To motivate the reader to take all possible preventive and safety actions at home or at work in order to avoid such an accident on your part or that of a family member.
C. To provide information on what to do if a fire breaks out in your home.
D. To enable the reader to give basic first aid to someone suffering from a burn injury.
E. To remove any fears and concerns you may have about burn treatment.
The information in this site concerning burn treatment is basic, and does not involve any “hands-on” training or role playing. Consequently, we suggest that if you wish to be truly competent and confident when it comes to burn first aid, you should enrol in a local community training class or St. John Ambulance course. This is especially relevant for the more complex artificial respiration and cardio resuscitation instructions for electrical burn injuries.
It is very important to comply with treatment and follow the procedures for caring for a burn “to the letter” to ensure the best possible outcome for you or your loved one.
The information from this site is not meant to replace the advice of your physician or nurse regarding burn care or treatment. If anything, the material here is designed to help you communicate with your health care team in order to improve your success and satisfaction with your treatment.
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Important terms for understanding burn care
Antimicrobial: A substance that will kill or stop the growth of microorganisms like bacteria.
Contractures: Restricted movement of a joint caused by scar tissue or loss of normal stretchiness of the skin.
CPR – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation: A first aid technique for reviving a patient who is unconscious, not breathing and pulseless.
Debridement: Removal of dirt and dead tissue from a burn wound.
Epithelialization: The regrowth of skin cells.
Eschar: The scab or dry crust of a burn wound.
Grafting: Skin tissue taken from a site or a person and put into a new site or person.
Hydrotherapy: The use of water to treat physical problems.
Hypertrophy: An increase in the size of the skin caused by an increase in the size of the skin cells rather than the number of cells.
Necrotic: Pertaining to dead skin tissue.
ROM: Exercises that will improve the Range of Motion of joints.
Superficial: Relating to the top surface of the skin.
Topical: Referring to the surface of a part of the body.
Tubbing: The name for a specialized bath as part of burn treatment.
Understanding Burns and First Aid
Types of burns
There are four major types of burns, depending on the nature of the accident:
There are usually two categories of thermal burns:
• Skin injury from dry heat due to contact with a flame or hot object. Usually a large surface area of the body is affected and the burn damage may be quite deep into the skin.
• Scalds caused by steam or boiling hot liquids. These types of burns range in severity from superficial to very deep and can be extremely serious if a large surface area of the body is involved.
2. Chemical burns
These are caused by strong chemicals such as acids or alkalis and can very quickly cause skin damage. They can be even more serious if these chemicals are swallowed and damage is done to the mouth and throat, or if the patient is exposed to the chemical for a prolonged period of time and absorption occurs.
3. Electrical burns
An electrical current can create a burn injury at those points where it enters and leaves the body. The burn injury in these cases can be quite deep into the skin. There are further associated problems where an electric shock can cause breathing difficulties and affect the activity of the heart. Immediate resuscitation by trained first aid or health care professionals is sometimes necessary to save the injured person.
The all-too-common problem of sunburn fits into this category; too much exposure to the sun can cause redness, swelling and blistering. Other sources of this sort of burn include overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, such as sun lamps and tanning beds.
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