Thought you’d unplugged that iron? Ooops. Burn injuries are common, affecting nearly 2 million Americans every year, with about 70,000 of them serious enough to require hospital admission, reports the American College of Emergency Physicians.
There are three types of burns. First-degree burns are the least serious, involving only the outer layer of skin. Redness and intense, stinging pain are usually present. Second-degree burns involve both the outer layer of skin and the layer underneath. Blisters develop, skin looks splotchy and red, and severe pain and swelling occur. Third-degree burns involve all layers of the skin (which appear charred and black, or white and dry) and result in permanent tissue damage.
To properly care for a burn, first determine the type. For major burns, call 911 immediately for medical help. Minor burns can be treated at home and will usually heal without further treatment. The Mayo Clinic advises the following steps to treat minor burns:
• Run cool (not cold) water over the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Do not apply ice, butter or ointment.
• Loosely wrap gauze around the burn, taking care not to apply pressure. Don’t use fluffy cotton or anything that might deposit lint in the wound.
First-degree burns typically take a few days to heal, while second-degree burns may take up to a few weeks. The skin may heal with pigment changes, meaning the burned area may become a different color than the surrounding skin. As with any injury, watch for signs of infection, such as increased swelling, redness, pain or fever. If these occur, seek medical help.
To prepare for future emergencies, create a first aid kit to keep in your kitchen, bathroom and car with necessary supplies such as gauze, bandages, soothing creams (to apply after burns have healed) and pain relievers.