Friday, September 30, 2011

Do you know how?

Some of my readers know and some do not.... We had the unfortunate privileged of dealing with a burn crisis in our home. Ansel my 21 mo old was in the kitchen with me, right at my heels while I was cooking.  He was beyond ready for lunch,  bombarding me with his array of , "I want to eat, I want a dot dog, I want noonles, dot dog, dot dog," I clearly wasn't moving fast enough for him. All the while I kept telling him to go sit at the table, get away from the stove because it was HOT. I had just finished making the Mac N Cheese for him, had moved the pot from the front burner to the back burner, and turned the front burner off. 

By some miracle I was able to catch his hand before he put his WHOLE hand on the burner, but not quick enough to avoid it all together. Ansel touched that screaming hot electric stove burner with his little cute chubby fingers. All the while he reached up he said "no, hot, don't touch" and then screamed in tremendous pain.  Brian rushed in and took him to run cool water on the burn, I was on the phone talking to my sister as well, and I heard Brian say, "Heather gotta go NOW, it's bad." My heart sank.

After the call to the pediatrician, visit to the ER, and a dx with an rx, I realized...I didn't know exactly how to treat my poor little ones emergency.

I started on google when I found the need to know how to wrap his hand and keep it dressed. He was pulling his dressing off quicker then I could get it put on.  Then I expanded, determined that I would KNOW what to do if, heaven forbid, it should ever  happen again.

This is information that EVERYONE should know, not just Mom's, not just care takers... EVERYONE.

Burns are classified into three degrees...

First-degree burn
The least serious burns are those in which only the outer layer of skin is burned, but not all the way through. The skin is usually red, with swelling, and pain sometimes is present. Treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn.

Second-degree burn
When the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer of skin (dermis) also is burned, the injury is called a second-degree burn. Blisters develop and the skin takes on an intensely reddened, splotchy appearance. Second-degree burns produce severe pain and swelling.

Third-degree burn
The most serious burns involve all layers of the skin and cause permanent tissue damage. Fat, muscle and even bone may be affected. Areas may be charred black or appear dry and white.

While not all burns of course require emergency medical help, do you know the most effective way to treat them?

Did you know that most 2nd degree burns are treated as minor but there is a line where you treat them as urgent as a 3rd degree burn?

Uh yeah I didn't know all this information either, and the Mommy guilt is KILLING me!

So the line to be drawn... when is it more emergent?

1st degree burns- Treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn unless it involves substantial portions of the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or a major joint, which requires emergency medical attention.

2nd degree burns- If the burned area is larger or if the burn is on the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or over a major joint, treat it as a major burn and get medical help immediately.

Keep in mine proportions as you are reading this. These proportions are going to be subjective. Substantial on an infant or toddler is not going to be substantial on a 10 yr old or an adult.

While Ansel's burn was the majority a 2nd degree burn, it was .5-.75 cm on his finger, sounds minimal but that was 3/4 of his finger! There was a minimal area that was classified as 3rd degree as well.

So how to treat MINOR burns:

1. COOL IT DOWN! Hold the burned area under cool (not cold) running water for 10 or 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cool water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Don't put ice on the burn. Doing so can cause frost bite, skin damage, and in some cases hypothermia.

2. Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Don't use fluffy cotton, or other material that may get lint in the wound. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Treat with an antibiotic ointment. Bandaging keeps air off the burn, reduces pain and protects blistered skin.

3.  Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

Minor burns usually heal without further treatment. Sometimes they'll be a different color for a while. You shouldn't try to tan the discolored area, and always use a sunscreen. If the area increases in redness, pain, or swelling seek additional medical attention.

DO NOT apply butter, eggs, honey, spit, or anything of the like to a burn. It needs to be kept clean and relatively dry to avoid infection.

Do NOT pop any blisters that may appear, that introduces the risk of infection. They will burst on their own, at which point continue to keep them clean and dry and watch for signs of infection.

What about major burns? Is treatment different? YES!!! 

For major burns, call 911 or emergency medical help. Until an emergency unit arrives, follow these steps: 

1. Don't remove burned clothing. However, do make sure the victim is no longer in contact with smoldering materials or exposed to smoke or heat.

2. Don't immerse large severe burns in cold water. Doing so could cause a drop in body temperature (hypothermia) and deterioration of blood pressure and circulation (shock).

3.  Elevate the burned body part or parts. Raise above heart level, when possible.

4. Cover the area of the burn. Use a cool, moist, sterile bandage; clean, moist cloth; or moist towels.

As most 3rd degree burns are a result of fires and other usual high risk situations, you will want to also check for the ABC's which is Airway, Breathing, Circulation... report to emergency and start CPR if you are trained to do so if the need is there.

It is a scary thing when you don't know what to do, or how to know when it's emergent and when it's not. If you think it's more emergent, get help don't just sit and wonder! NO ONE will fault you for being overly cautious...

I have made this information accessible to my family, and in an area should any baby sitter need it. I hope to heaven I never need it again, but dang it I KNOW it now if I do!

Make sure you know it too, don't wait until the unthinkable happens, google it now, find out NOW so that you are prepared when the situation arises!

Thanks to the mayo clinic web page and University of Utah web page for the information gathered.


  1. This is an Excellent post. I'm going to tweet in and FB it. II've seen many burns as a pediatrician, and the sooner the parent reacts, the better the chances of healing. One boy climbed into the stove and the mom grabbed him and put him under a cold shower. It tools some time, lots of silver nitrate and gauze, and lots of trust on the boys part, but he has no scars because of her quick thinking. Great job.

  2. Thanks for this post! Burns on my little people scare me! :-/
    I've never had to deal with a burn worse than a 1st degree, so it's good to know the proper procedures for more severe burns!