It can take just an instant: A harried cook grabs the pan of burning food out of the oven; a cup of hot coffee comes tumbling down over the side of the table onto a curious child; a toddler manages to turn on the hot-water faucet during bath time.
Many burns are minor and can be treated at home. The injured skin turns red; thats known as a first-degree burn. Sometimes, tiny blood vessels may be damaged and may leak fluid, causing swelling and a weepy appearance. If blisters appear, the burn is classified as second degree. In third-degree burns, blisters do not form, and the skin turns white instead of red. Usually, the deeper the burn, the less the pain, says Mick Crowley. R.N., B.S.N.. department manager of the Burn Care Center! Neurosurgical Unit at University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics in Columbia.
TREATING A BURN
Heres what to do when a burn occurs:
Put out the fire first.
If your clothes are on fire, your first concern is to put out the flame. Drop and roll, says Crowley. If a hot object is responsible, remove it.
Know when to seek medical help.
There are times when first-aid methods at home just wont be enough. Get medical attention immediately if you have burns on your hands or face or over a joint. Like the elbow; if your burns blister or you suspect that you have a third-degree burn; or if youve suffered chemical or electrical burns. Electrical burns can be very, very tricky says Crowley. Because the damage often occurs out of sight, below the surface of the skin. In addition, consult your doctor before applying any products to burned skin.
Cool the burn.
For minor burns, gently run cool water over the burned area, use cool compresses, or place the area in a bowl of cool water. Dont turn the faucet on full force. warns Patricia Fosarelli, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. You risk further injury to the skin. And use cool, but not ice-cold, water. The coolness will stop the burn from spreading by eliminating the thermal energy, says Terry L. Hankey, M.D., clinical asso-ciate professor of family practice at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison.
Leave the ice in the freezer.
Just because cool water is good for a burn doesnt mean ice is better. Putting ice on the burn will restrict the blood flow, says Crowley.
Dont worry about dirt.
Most first-degree burns arent dirty, Fosarelli says. If, for some reason, yours is, then gently clean it with soap and water. Gently is the operative word. she cautions. Dont rub.
Bandage the burn for a child.
If the burn occurs in an area that could be injured again or where a child might pick at it, you may want to cover the burn with some gauze or a bandage. Forgo any covering if its an open, weeping wound, however, because the bandage will stick to the wound, says Crowley.
Dont pop any blisters.
If a blister does develop4, keep your hands off of it. Its the bodys way of keeping the burn sterile, explains Fosarelli. "Don't rub, poke, or break it.
PREVENTING BURNS IN CHILDREN
Even the best remedy cant beat prevention. Take the following steps to help protect your child from burns:
Turn handles in on the stove.
Probably the most common cause of indoor accidents that burn children is a pan of something hot falling (or being pulled) off the stove.
Put coffee out of reach.
Youre sitting on the couch. relaxing, your cup of steaming hot coffee nearby on the aptly named coffee table. Before you know whats happening, your toddling little boy grabs the cup and dumps it on himself.
Lower the thermostat on the hot-water heater.
Set it for under 120 degrees Fahrenheit. recommends Fosarelli. A second-degree burn can happen in seconds in water over 120 degrees."
Keep a watchful eye.
Never, ever leave a child unattended in a room with a fireplace (even if it has a screen in front of it), a wood-burning stove, a kerosene heater, or any kind of space heater. "Not even for a minute, warns Fosarelli. Dont leave a young child alone in the bathroom, either.
Plug electrical outlets.
Cover all electrical outlets with specially made caps.
Dont run electrical cords across the floor.
A child reaches down and bites the cord and that spells tragedy, says Fosarelli.
Keep matches away from young children.
That goes for lighters, too. And dont leave them in your purse, where children can find them, either.
Have fire drills.
That means you need to establish escape routes in your house and demonstrate to your child how to follow them.
Tell your child about Emergency Number To Call.
Even a four-year-old can learn to dial this, especially if you have it programmed on your phone, says Fosarelli. That a fire extinguisher, not water, should be used on grease fire in the kitchen.
Make the stove off-limits.
Keep younger children away from the stove, especially when you re cooking, and discourage older kids from cooking when youre not around.
Get fire extinguishers. Keep them accessible and in good re-pair. Explain to your children
Keep smokes alarms in working order. Check them monthly, if not more often.
The Butter Myth
Some folk remedies have merit. And some can be downright dangerous. Applying butter to a burn is just stupid, according to Patricia Fosarelli, MD. Why? Butter isnt sterile. It will also insulate the area and hold the heat in, says Mick Crowley R. N, B. S. N The salted kind will irritate broken skin.