Burns – Part 2 “Chemical / Electrical & Radiation”

Burns – Part 2 “Chemical / Electrical & Radiation”

Once again “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” For this section to help you see the information a little more clearly lets focus on physical causes of burns or “Burns from an Energy Source“, this will also enforce how “easy” burns are 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“. This does not include Dry Ice, as Dry ice has 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.

Chemical Burns “Wet or Dry“:

There are so many chemicals in our society it would be almost impossible to provide an accurate First Aid skill for all of them if we didn’t understand the nature of chemicals and how they work. What we must remember is that many chemicals create a “Chemical Reaction when exposed to a catalyst” this can either be another chemical, substance or fluid. The chemical reaction against the body or flesh creates a burn like symptom that may not stop until the chemical is neutralized or even removed entirely from the flesh. “Always refer to the MSDS Material Safety Data Sheet for chemical exposure along with your 911 Emergency Response coordinator for further treatments

Electrical Burns:

Burns from Electricity are very dangerous and can have many long lasting side effects. As your body uses electricity in many of its natural functions exposure to foreign electrical sources can disrupt your natural electrical balance and cause damage “Heart Rhythm for example“. This is only part of the Electrical burn as electricity always requires 2 things “Entrance & Exit” through the “Path of least resistance“, this means that depending on the type of electricity “Volts or Amps” the person’s organs may be disrupted and damaged “along” the path the electricity takes “Entrance & Exit“. With electrical burns always expect 2 wounds. The severity of the damage will also be linked to the “Amount of electricity the victim was exposed to“. Never approach a victim who is “being” electrocuted, as your body is mainly water you may act as a conductor and be electrocuted yourself even while wearing rubber shoes. “Always consult your 911 Emergency coordinator for further options & treatments

Radiation Burns:

Our Sun, which has radiant energy, can cause burns to the skin. Other sources of radiant energy that can cause burns are X-Rays, electronics, radiation from radioactive material and radiation treatments used for illness like cancer. Even intense light (welders flash) or reflection from sunlight can burn. “If you were exposed to a radiation Source” or an object marked or identified as radioactive call 911 immediately and consult your Emergency coordinator for further safety measures to protect yourself, “never approach a radiation source without proper training and Personal Protective Equipment” Exposure to radiation sources for even a short period may cause long lasting side effects, even death.


“Chemical Burns”

  • -Store Chemicals in their original containers
  • -Wear protective gear when you are handling chemicals
  • -Wash your hands after touching chemicals
  • -Get trained in “WHMISWorkplace Hazardous Materials Information System also known as “GHSGlobally Harmonized System of classifications and labeling of chemicals.
  • -Read the label before you use a chemical product

“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: “Chemical / Electrical & Radiation”

1) Check the area, once the area is safe, Check the person and ensure the persons ABC’s are present “Airway / Breathing / CirculationREMEMBERWear 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.

Notes on Electrical Burns

  • -“Look for two burns” the entry and exit points. They will be open wounds that may need to be treated.”
  • -“Always” treat the person exposed to electricity as if he or she might have a head and/or spine injury.

Notes on Chemical Burns

  • Always flush the affected area with “Cool / Running / Water” to Remove the Chemical, Dilute the Chemical & slow the chemical reaction rate.
  • Always refer to your MSDS and use your WHMIS & GHS training

Notes on Radiation Burns

  • Never approach a radiation source or material that has been designated radioactive.
  • -If you suspect radiation exposure consult your emergency department immediately! Then seek Medical Attention!

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

“This material is for information purposes only and is taken from The Canadian Red Cross / Alberta Heart & Stroke Foundation & Alberta Health Services. This information should not be used in place of medical, Technical advice, instructor, and/or treatment. If you have questions, speak to your local Physician or Safety Training Facility.”

Just Remember:

Protect Yourself!!! Call 911!!! Don’t Waste Time!!!

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