A burn is caused when there is an injury to the tissues of the body caused by heat, chemicals, electric current or radiation. A research by the US university has indicated almost 500000 + cases every year about burn incidents reported.

There are different causes of burn that can be separated into 5 areas. The treatment for burns can differ slightly depending on the cause:

Dry heat burns

If you are in any direct contact with a dry heat source or friction.

• Try not to put yourself in danger.

• Ensure that Airway and Breathing are maintained.

• Ensure to cool the burn immediately with cold running water for a duration of 10 minutes or until the pain is relieved. Any cold harmless liquid will be fine if water is not available, like milk which is better than no cooling at all. Do this first then move quickly to a water supply if you can take care not to cool large areas of burns so much that you induce hypothermia.

• You should remove watches, rings etc. during cooling, as burned areas will swell. Clothing that has not stuck to the burn may be removed very carefully.

• Use a sterile dressing to dress the burn that won’t stick. Consider using Cling film dressings for a burn; take off the first two turns from the roll and apply it lengthways (don’t wrap it tightly around a limb). Secure the burn with a bandage.

• Use alternative dressings that could be a new, unused plastic bag, low adherent dressings or specialized burns dressings (do not rely on burns dressings to cool a burn - use cold water).

Wet heat (scalds)

They occur mostly from hot water, but other factors include hot fats or other liquids that can reach higher temperatures than water.

• Treat as a dry heat burn.

Chemical burns

The burns caused by chemicals which either enter the skin or create heat (or both).

It is important to learn the correct first aid treatments for any chemicals used in your workplace - different chemicals can have different first aid treatments.

• Make the area safe - contain the chemical if possible and protect yourself from coming into contact with it.

• Dry powder chemicals can be carefully brushed off the skin before irrigating. Take care to protect yourself.

• Irrigate the burn with lots of running water to wash the chemical away. This should be done for longer than a thermal burn - at least 20 minutes. Take care not to wash the chemical onto unaffected areas of the body. Ensure pools of contaminated water do not collect underneath the casualty.

• Call for emergency help. Make a note of the chemical and give this information to the ambulance operator if possible.

• Remove contaminated clothing carefully whilst irrigating the burn.

• If an eye is contaminated, irrigate as above and ensure that the water runs away from the good eye. Gently but firmly try to open the eyelid to irrigate the eye fully.

• Some chemicals in the workplace cannot be safely diluted with water - health and safety regulations require an ‘antidote’ to be available in an emergency. You should be trained in the use of the antidote.

Radiation burns (sunburn)

Most commonly seen as sunburn.

• Remove the casualty from exposure to the sun; indoors if possible.

• Give the casualty frequent sips of water to ensure that heat exhaustion does not take effect.

• Ensure to cool the burn with cold water. If the area affected is extensive, cool the burn under a gentle cold shower or in a bath of cool water for 10 minutes.

• If there is extensive blistering, or you are not sure, seek medical advice.

• If the sunburn is mild, after-sun cream or calamine lotion may soothe the area.

Electrical burns

The burns are caused by heat that is generated by an electrical current flowing through the tissues of the body. You may be able to see a burn where the current entered the body and at the point of exit. There may be deep internal burns which are not visible along the path of the current flow. The extent of the internal burns can be estimated by the severity of the entry and exit wounds.

An electric shock may cause cardiac arrest. In this case, Airway and Breathing become the priority.

• Ensure your own safety - make sure contact with the electricity is broken.

• Ensure Airway and Breathing are maintained.

• Irrigate the area of the burns, including the path between entry and exit, for at least 10 minutes.

• Call for emergency help.

• Continue treatment as you would for a ‘dry heat’ burn.


  • Cool the burn for 10 minutes.
  • Take off jewellery and loosen the clothes.
  • Dress the burn. Use Cling film considered as one of the best dressings for a burn.


• Touch the burn.

• Apply lotions, ointments or fats.

• Remove clothing that has stuck to the burn.

• Apply adhesive tape or dressings.

• Burst the blisters.

Seek medical advice if:

• The inflicted burn is larger than a 1-inch square.

• The casualty is a child.

• If the burn extends around a limb.

• You are not sure and any part of the burn has increased to full thickness.

• The burn involves hands, feet, genitals or the face.