How to Treat a Severe Burn

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Severe burns are those characterized by skin that blisters quickly, sloughs off the affected area, or becomes severely discolored. According to a recent article released by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, burns that fit these characteristics are serious enough that they require professional medical treatment. However, as you wait for help to arrive, there are certain steps that you can take to begin effective first-aid treatment for severe burns. Doing so can help to minimize the harm done by the burn and can also lower the amount of time it will take to recover from the burn.

Things You'll Need

  • Cool water
  • Clean bandages
  • Pain medicine

Call for emergency medical assistance. Severe burns almost always require professional medical treatment. The best way of quickly getting access to such care is to call 911. Only after you've done so should you begin first-aid treatment.

Put out the fire and apply cool water to the burn. Even if the fire has been put out, a severe burn can continue to get worse from residual heat. That's why it's crucial to apply cool, clean water to the affected area.

Cover the burn loosely with clean bandages. This will keep the area from becoming dirty and will keep airborne particulate matter from causing an infection. Make sure that you don't wrap the bandage too tight, though, because this can cause pain and even exacerbate the harm.

Take pain medication if you have reason to believe that help won't arrive for an extended period of time. Severe burns can cause a tremendous amount of pain. Even though you won't be able to treat that pain effectively in first-aid treatment, you can still help by administering an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetominophen.

Sit or lie down. Severe burns can cause shock or a sudden loss of consciousness, so it's a good idea to recline or lie down in order to prevent a fall that could cause more harm.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don't have bandages on hand you can use clean linens or towels, but make sure that they've been thoroughly cleaned or else they can cause an infection.
  • Severe burns are much more serious than normal burns. Be sure to seek professional medical treatment and do not attempt to only treat the burn at home. Also, do not apply any ointment, butter, oil or any home-remedy-style ointment to the burn. Many such ointments can actually make a severe burn worse.

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