First Aid for Burns, Scalds

Among the most common injuries that occur at home are burns and scalds. Children are more prone to burns than adults and if not taken care of, burn wounds can get infected and take longer periods to heal.

According to Nurse Ajok Eunice of Rubaga hospital, things that can cause burns and scalds are fire, steam, hot objects, hot liquids, hot charcoal, hot flat iron and more. She says burns are in three types called degrees which she thus explained;

First degree burns are red and a little painful. They also may swell a bit and take 3 to 6 days to heal.

Second degree burns are thicker and more painful. They also produce blisters which can take two to three weeks to heal.

A blister is a swelling on a skin filled with fluid caused by burning. Blisters in most cases can heal on their own and don’t need a doctor. However, contrary to the myth about draining blisters to allow the wound to heal, the fluid keeps the underlying skin clean, which prevents infection and promotes healing.

Do not drain the blister and if it’s punctured accidentally, dress the wound to keep infection at bay.

Third degree burns damage all the three layers of the skin by destroying the top layer of the skin and the inner layer and these take a long time to heal. The skin has layers; outer and inner. Third degree burns damage all the layers.

Burns are also categorized as;


Thermal burns; burns due to external heat sources which raise the temperature of the skin and tissues and cause tissue cell death or charring. Hot metals, scalding liquids, steam, and flames, when coming in contact with the skin, can cause thermal burns.

Radiation burns; burns caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, or to other sources of radiation such as X-ray.

Chemical burns; burns caused by strong acids, alkalies, detergents, or solvents coming into contact with the skin and/or eyes.

Electrical burns; burns from electrical current, either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).

First aid for burns

First degree burn,

Soak the burn in cold water for at least 5 minutes, this will help to reduce the burning sensation and lower the temperature.

Use a skin care product that protects and heals skin, such as aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment to treat the burn.

Take a pain killer tablet to reduce the pain.

Second degree burn

Soak the burn in cold water for 15 minutes. If the burned area is small, put a clean, wet cloth on the burn for a few minutes every day.

Apply skin care products like aloevera to soothe the pain and use clean gauze to dress the wound then check with a doctor to check for any possible infections.

Change the dressing every day.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Gently undress the wound, tagging from the side towards the center.
  • Clean the wound with a disinfectant solution such as hydrogen peroxide and water.
  • Apply an anti-biotic ointment then dress the wound again.

A burnt skin patch normally itches as it heals so keep your nails short and scratch gently to avoid further damage.

Third degree burn.

These burns are the most severe and they can be fatal.

Unlike the first and second degree burns, third degree burns cannot be dealt with at home. The only first aid you can give is getting the victim away from the source of the burn or scald.

  • Go to the hospital right away.
  • Don’t remove anything stuck on the wound such as cloth or a plastic material.
  • Don’t soak the wound in water because you will be causing more damage.
  • Don’t apply any antibiotic ointment until you receive a doctor’s prescription.
  • If you get an electric burn, go to the hospital immediately because electricity connects with the whole body system and may cause internal damage.

How to prevent burns.

Don’t place hot things like water, tea, food so high and in a risky place, cook from a relatively lower place.

Use a cloth or any another insulator material to touch hot metals like saucepans.

All electric circuits in your house shouldn’t have open wires, this includes electric gargets like flat irons or wire cables that can get one electrocuted.

Most people get electrocuted when hanging clothes, embrace plastic wires in a home rather the metallic ones.

Put barriers the kitchen to prevent crawling or even walking kids from approaching the hot surfaces.

Sun burns are also are a kind of burns that affect certain people. For such cases, applying sunscreen to the skin prior being under direct sunlight is recommended.

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