6 common mistakes with burns

A burn requires swift treatment – just make sure it’s the right treatment by avoiding these six burn blunders.

05 February 2015
by Annie Brookstone

1. Underestimating the severity of the burn

"The most important mistake to avoid is underestimating the severity of the burn," says Cape Town general practitioner, Dr Michelle Pentecost. "Minor burns can be treated at home. They typically cover a small area, and are characterised by redness without any large blisters – sunburn is a good example. If the burn covers a large area, if it is a chemical burn, if there are large blisters, or if there is severe tissue damage (even in a small area), medical attention should be sought immediately."

2. Using home remedies

Home remedies can go very wrong when it comes to burn first aid. Never apply toothpaste or butter (or other condiment out of your kitchen) to a burn, no matter what the old wives’ tales say, as this can lead to infection. Dr Pentecost cautions that even ice is a bad idea as it is too cold and can cause further tissue damage. "Cool water is the best thing for burns," she says.

3. Using water inappropriately

Knowing to run a burn under cool water is vital, but as vital is knowing how long to do it. "People tend to only do it for a few minutes," saying Dr Pentecost, "but you should leave a burn under cool running water for at least 20 minutes."

4. Neglecting anti-inflammatories

"Another common mistake is to focus solely on topical treatment for a minor burn," says Dr Pentecost. She explains that while it is important to cool and dress the affected area, it’s also appropriate to use an oral anti-inflammatory medication for pain relief (unless contraindicated).

5. Popping blisters

Burns can lead to blistering, and along with that the temptation to pop them. What most people don’t realise is that keeping blisters intact can help the healing process as the skin is a natural barrier against infection-causing bacteria. Only drain a blister if it is painful or impeding your function in some way, and then takes steps to keep the process as sterile as possible.

6. Forgoing a tetanus shot

"Don’t forget that protection against tetanus is recommended after some burns," says Dr Pentecost. "Most people don’t know that if your tetanus vaccination is out of date, it may be worth getting a new shot." Tetanus vaccinations are available at Clicks Clinics. Speak to a Clicks Clinic sister for more information about this.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com