How to Treat Burn Victims with CPR and First Aid Learning

Skin burns are serious injuries that require immediate attention. The type of burn will dictate the actions when it comes to providing first aid. The larger the body area burned, the greater the disruption of the skin’s ability to properly maintain body temperature. The deeper a burn goes into the skin and underlying tissue, the more likely the risk of infection. Burn-related first aid is best performed by people who know what to do for victims.

Early first aid treatment of burns can help minimize the damage that can occur and prevent later complications. Burns require immediate attention but the wrong treatment can be more problematic than helpful. Hence, it is important to learn basic first aid for burns that will help minimize the damage and help the victim to recover successfully.

There are three categories of burns with increasing seriousness that range from mild to major:

 SymtomsFirst Degree BurnsSecond Degree BurnsThird Degree Burns
PainYesYesNo (due to the destruction of nerve endings)
Depth of injuryOuter layer of skinUnder skin is affectedSkin is destroyed, muscle and bone layers may be affected
AppearanceReddening & Slight SwellingBlisters, Wet, shiny appearanceCharred, white, or grayish

Burns can be attributed to thermal, chemical, electrical, or radiation causes.  Severe burns can affect more than the skin layers.  Respiratory failure can be caused by severe burns.  Blindness can result from burns to the eyes.  A victim may go into shock from serious burns.  Serious burns are a cause of death.

Treatment for Burns:

  • Removing any material covering the injury, such as clothing.  Cut around portions of clothing that stick to the injury.
  • Flood the area with cool water for at least ten minutes.  This will stop the burning and relieve pain.
  • Cover the burn with a sterile dressing, free from oils and grease.  (Oils and grease need to be removed before additional medical treatment is provided, causing additional and unnecessary pain and increase the chance of infection.)
  • Take care to prevent foreign materials, including germs and rescuer’s fingers, from entering the burned area.
  • Treat pain associated with the burn.
  • Check on dressings, jewelry, and clothing to ensure that they do not become too tight if swelling increases.
  • Monitor the victim for signs of shock.
  • Seek additional medical attention or call 911 for serious burns.

In the case of minor thermal burns, use cool, moist gauze or bandages to treat the injury.  Tape can be used to secure moist gauze over burned eyes.  Use dry bandages for more serious thermal burns.

Blisters: 

Blisters are “bubbles” that form under the skin.  They are caused when tissue in the burned areas leak fluid, known as serum.  Blisters caused by burns should never be broken.  The skin underneath is damaged and susceptible to infection.    Blisters do not necessarily need treatment beyond what is necessary to care for the burn.  In some cases, the blister is located in an area that leaves it at risk for damage.  If a blister breaks, or seems likely to break, cover it with a dry, non-adhesive bandage.  Make sure that the bandage extends beyond the edges of the blister.

Chemical Burns: 

Chemical burns require additional steps during emergency treatment.  Often, signs of a chemical burns will present slower than other types of burns.

  • Remove any clothing contaminated with the chemical agent.
  • Apply a neutralizing solution only if recommended by a physician.
  • For dry chemical (alkali) burns, brush all loose powder from the victim.  Then irrigate the area with generous amounts of water.  Mixing alkali powders with water creates a corrosive substance.
  • For other chemical burns, irrigate the area with water for 15 minutes.  Potable water is preferred.
  • In the case of chemical burns to the eye, have the victim lie down.  Use fingertips to hold the eye open and slowly pour water into the inner corner of the eye.  Continue flushing until water flows across the entire eye and clears the contaminants.  Cover the eyes with moistened gauze and seek medical attention from an eye specialist.  Do not use neutralizing solutions on the eyes.

Electrical Burns:

Electrical burns often combine with more serious medical emergencies as a result of electrical shock.

  • Cardiac and respiratory arrests are the most serious.  Careful monitoring is necessary to identify and treat these issues.
  • Another potential effect of electrical shock is bone fractures.  The fractures are due to severe muscle contractions and require splinting.
  • Often times, the entry exit points for electrical burns show signs of damage.  There is often an internal, hidden trail of damage that connects the two points.  A brown, coppery residue may also be present in instances of high-voltage shock.  Do not confuse it for an additional injury.
  • Ensure that the victim is disconnected from the source of the shock before rescuers touch the victim.

Radiation Burns: 

Radiation is undetectable to humans.  Rescuers responding to radiation burns need to take great care to ensure that they are not subjected to the source of the radiation.  If the radioactive material is still present, emergency personnel with specific protective gear need to treat the patient.  In any case, rescuers should spend as little time as possible in the presence of radiation.

At CPR Select, we offer basic first aid courses online that will prepare you to provide first aid for those that injured due to burn. We not only offer training in basic first aid, but we also provide combined CPR and first aid certification and recertification. The classes that we provide can be taken at your convenience and are presented by AHA-certified instructors.