Approximately 75% of all burned patients are babies and young children. It is the second most common cause of death in children below three years of age. Most burns, although severe in nature, are often preventable.
A burn is a developing injury. Oftentimes starting mildly, it may rapidly move through various stages and degrees, transforming into a possibly deep and severe wound beyond repair.
Various factors play a role in the speed of this transformation: age of the patient, source of the burn, area of the body, delay of treatment and type of treatment.
It is key to interrupt this development at an early stage and to ensure that the burn remains as superficial as possible, allowing for a full recovery. In order to achieve this, the First Aider is to cool the burnt area for at least ten minutes, allowing for the heat (energy) to be drawn from even the lower parts of the affected tissue.
The cooling process must not be interrupted before that time, even if the pain starts to subside. A decrease in pain indicates the sufficient cooling of the upper layers of the tissue alone. The lower layers however are still affected.
If the cooling process is interrupted at this point, energy in the form of heat will radiate from the lower towards the upper layers of the tissue, the pain will return.
Generally used treatments such as butter, egg white, milk or toothpaste have the adverse effect. They form a seal over the wound (risk of infection), preventing the tissue from releasing the heat (further development of the burn).
Burns are divided into three degrees.
First degree burns affect the outer layer of the skin. They cause pain, redness and swelling.
Second degree burns affect both the outer and the underlying layer of the skin. They cause pain, redness, swelling and blistering (do not break the blister – infection may result).
Third degree burns affect the deep layers of the skin. They cause pain and open wounds with a high risk of infection.