Burns – Part 3 “Thermal Burns”

For our last portion of Burns lets reiterate “Burns are injuries to the body’s tissues caused by either chemicals, electricity, heat or radiation. As burns can come from so many different sources“, this final section will help you focus on the information and see that physical causes of burns or “Burns from an Energy Source”, are “easy“. Once you get the science of energy and how the damage to your body from Thermal Energy “Hot or Cold” is relatively similar in how we treat it. A little slogan to remember about Thermal Energy is “Hot is fast but Cold is Slow“, this little saying will help you see that if a burn from “heat” can happen fast, then we can treat it fast, but just like it takes a while for an ice cube to form “slow” that means that your body will likewise take damage from cold “Slowly“. Again This does not include Dry Ice or any other chemical, as chemicals have an MSDS and we will always refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet to ensure we use the correct methods of treating injuries caused by chemicals.

Within Thermal Burns or Thermal Damage from a heat source to your flesh there are normally 3 levels or degree’s that we will decipher. Just remember that Thermal energy in either direction Hot or Cold will result in levels of severity and symptoms that are very similar but on opposite ends of the spectrum “Fire / Ice“, Lets focus on Heat exposure for this article.

As your flesh heats up to levels where it can sustain damage, your tissue will naturally react as many other substances do when encountering a “Heat Source“. Your flesh will harden and trap the energy created by the Heat Source within it, as we have heard the saying “A burn will continue to burn even after the heat source has been removed.” The issue is not

“First Degree or Superficial burns”

  • damage to the first layers of your tissue comes with redness, pain, possible swelling. Most commonly seen as light sunburn that comes with itching and tenderness of the flesh.

“Second Degree or Partial Thickness Burns”

  • -Damage to the second layers of flesh and tissues, often seen with cooking burns. Redness, Pain from mild to severe, Possible swelling and Blisters “Never Pop a Blister” are often symptoms with second degree or partial thickness burns.

“Third Degree or Full Thickness Burns”

  • -Damage to all layers of tissue and flesh, often seen with flash burns. Third degree or Full Thickness Burns may present with redness, pain mild to severe “May not be present at the worst part of the burn due to nerve damage“, swelling, blisters, charred or waxy white flesh, open wounds. Always consult medical professionals for third degree or full thickness burns as infection rates are dramatically increased.


“Thermal Burns From a Heat Source”

  • Keep matches away from children.
  • Store gasoline and other highly flammable liquids outdoors.
  • When you are cooking on the stove, turn the pot handles in and use only the back burners when possible.
  • Keep the hot water tank temperature turned down to 49C (120F)
  • Do not put water on a grease fire “Use baking soda”
  • Keep aerosol cans away from heat and open flames
  • Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy metal screen. Keep flammable materials away from fireplaces.

“Electrical Burns”

  • Keep electrical appliances away from water
  • If an electrical cord is frayed, fix it or get rid of it
  • If you have young children cover electrical outlets

“Lightning Strikes”

  • As soon as you see or hear a storm, stop swimming and boating and get away from the water because water conducts electricity.
  • Go inside the closest building. If there is no building nearby, get inside a car and roll up the windows.
  • Stay away from the telephone “Cell phone”, except in an emergency. If you are caught outside stay away from telephone poles and tall trees.
  • Stay away from farm equipment and small metal vehicles such as motorcycles, bicycles and golf carts.
  • Stay away from wire fences, clotheslines, metal pipes and rails, and other things that conduct electricity.
  • If you are with a group of people, stay several meters apart from each other

How to Treat a Burn: “Thermal – From a Heat Source

  1. Check the area, once the area is safe, Check the person and ensure the persons ABC’s are present “Airway / Breathing / CirculationREMEMBER – Wear gloves if available to avoid bodily fluids.
  2. Call 911 and get an AED if the burn covers more than 10% of the body, the person is in a great deal of pain, there is charring on the wound, 3rd degree or the burn was caused by a chemical, electrical, radiation source or explosive.
  3. Care for the burn by:

Always follow recommendations by your Emergency Response professionals and 911 Dispatch personnel. “Never endanger yourself and maintain a safe distance from the source of the burn & review the MSDS if available”

-Cool the Burn and affected area with cool running water for at least “10 to 20 minutes” Minimum 15 minutes for all chemicals to dilute, remove & neutralize the chemical reaction. “This includes powdered chemicals after you have brushed away the excess before washing away. “Always remove clothing that has been exposed to chemicals to prevent them from sticking to the body” **NOTE** Never remove clothing that has “become stuck or melted to the skin as the skin may peal off with it, consult a physician instead.

-For 2nd & 3rd Degree burns with charring or blistering cool only a small area at a time, too quickly may cause the person to go into shock.

-For 2nd & 3rd Degree burns with charring or blistering If the burned area covers less than 10% of the persons body, cool the burn with running or standing water for at 10 to 20 minutes. If this is too painful or the area cannot be put in water, cover the burn with a cool, moist, sterile dressing or clean cloth to cool it.

-“DO NOT” try to clean a full thickness burn “3rd degree with charring or blistering

-After cooling the burn, cover it loosely with a dry, sterile dressing, preferably non-stick gauze.

-Always Seek Medical Attention for further treatment of 2nd and 3rd degree burns with charring or blistering to avoid complications or infections.

As you can see, the treatment on burns in all 3 sections of this tutorial are the same. Once you master the First Aid technique on how to aid a burn caused from a heat source you can aid anyone who has been exposed to too much heat. Just remember that it does not matter what the name of the burn is, the treatments are often the same “Hot is Fast & Cold is Slow“. Cool Running Water for 10-20 Minutes for all burns and seek medical attention for 2nd & 3rd degree or if their injuries may worsen.

We never know what can happen, its always good to be prepared and have the knowledge we need to help those who need it.

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Above all else remember to Protect Yourself!!! Call 911!!! Don’t Wast Time!!!

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