Thermal injuries stand for various injuries as a result of direct contact with heat source. The most common type of thermal injuries are thermal burns, which are caused by fire, heat, steam, radiation, chemicals, hot liquids, hot gases, or electrical contacts. However, thermal injuries may also be caused by carbon monoxide inhalation and toxic products, such as cyanide. Minor thermal injuries are very common and fortunately, can be self-treated at home or managed on an outpatient basis at the hospital. More severe burns should be observed and treated with professional care as it may cause great impacts on the patient’s body parts or functions.
How to treat thermal injuries
To provide first aids to thermal injuries, especially thermal burns, do the following actions:
⦁ Stop the burning immediately
Keep the victim away from the source of heat. Help the person to stop, drop, and roll to get rid of the burning fire.
Remove any hot or burned clothing. Cut around the burnt clothing if it is stick to the person’s skin.
⦁ Remove all jewelries, belts, and other constrictive clothing, since the burnt body parts are going to swell quickly.
⦁ Cool down the burnt skin. To do this, use cool tap water by running it over the burnt to alleviate the pain. As a replacement for tap water, you can immerse the burnt area in a bucket filled with cool water until the pain and heat subsides. However, avoid using ice cubes, cold water, or cold compresses to cool down any burns, as it lowers body temperature drastically, which may lead further damages. If some blistered skin areas present, do not break or drain them.
Once you manage to do the first aids, start observing the wound to determine the degree of the burnt. This is important in that it helps you to determine the most proper treatments.
⦁ First degree burns only affect the superficial layer of the skin called the epidermis. In addition to heat and chemicals, sunburn is also a common cause of first-degree burn in many people. The symptoms include painful, red area that may turn into whitish-colored swelling when touched. In this type of burn, blisters are not usually present. Instead, the affected skin become tenderer than its surrounding area.
⦁ Second degree burns affects the epidermis and some of the dermis, the second layer of the skin. This type of burn may be either superficial or deep. With superficial second degree burns, some common symptoms include painful, red area that turns into white and develop blisters that contain liquid discharge, while the deeper ones may be not painful if the nerve endings are damaged. It may also be dry, since the sweat glands might be destroyed as well.
⦁ Third degree burns, which affect the first two layers of the skin, the nerve endings, the hair follicles, and the tiny blood vessels beneath the skin. Thus, you might notice some fat tissues beneath the skin, as they might also be damaged.
First and superficial second degree burns can be managed at home with proper and hygienic treatments, while the third degree burns should get an immediate medical help, as it may affect a large portion of the body and may damage vital organs. To treat burns at home:
⦁ Clean the wound from debris using tap water. Do not remove sticky clothing or particles as it may cause bleeding. Instead, keep the area as clean as possible.
⦁ Cover the wound with sterile, non-adhesive breathable gauze or cloth.
⦁ Do not apply toothpaste, egg white, butter, or ointment, as they may trigger infection.
⦁ Keep the wound moist by covering it and change the gauze when you see a lot of blood leaks or seepage of fluids. Do not wet the treated area.
⦁ If possible, elevate the burnt area to alleviate the caused pain and promote faster healing.
⦁ To relieve pain, take over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen.
When to see a doctor
Although most minor thermal injuries from either heat, chemicals, or electrical burns can be treated at home, you should seek for medical help immediately if:
⦁ You spot some signs and symptoms of infection, such as elevating pain that will not subside after all home treatments, increasing redness and inflammation, and increasing amount of discharge or oozing.
⦁ The victim has not received any tetanus booster in the last 10 years. As burns are commonly dirty, tetanus shot becomes quite important, especially if the victim is exposed to the second degree burns.
⦁ Bleeding that will not stop after given adequate pressure, despite the physical appearance of the wound site. Excessive bleeding might be a sign of damaged blood vessels, so that it may require further medical examination.