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Burn Care
The first step in treating a burn is to stop its progression. If clothing is saturated with caustic chemicals or hot substances, it should be removed at once. The affected skin area should be placed in cold water, but not ice as it can cause frostbite and further damage burned skin. If cooled within the first few minutes, cold-water emersion for up to 30 minutes can reduce both the total area involved and the depth of the burn.

In the case of minor first- and second-degree burns, once the burn has been cooled, a lotion or moisturizer can be applied to prevent cracking, peeling, and general drying out of the skin. Over the counter pain relievers can also be used. Do not apply butter to soothe a burn. It will hold the heat in the wound, causing greater damage and possible infection.

A light gauze dressing and petroleum jelly can be used to cover the burn. Applying a bandage will keep air away from the area and reduce pain. If there are blisters present, do not break them. Blisters protect healing skin from further damage and infection. If the blistering area is larger than the palm of your hand, consult a physician immediately.

Dressings should be changed once or twice daily, and the area washed gently with an anti-bacterial soap. This process may need to be continued for up to three weeks. In addition, if you notice any signs of infection, immediately contact a physician.

First Aid for Burn Victims

  1. Drop and Roll. If burned by fire, drop and roll to extinguish clothing fire. For scalds, immediately remove hot, wet clothing.
  2. Cool the Burn. Cool the burn areas immediately with cool water. This has three benefits:
    1. It reduces skin temperature and stops the burning process.
    2. It numbs the pain.
    3. It prevents or reduces swelling.
  3. Remove Burned Clothing. Lay the victim flat. Remove non-sticking clothing. Loosen or remove tight clothing, jewelry or boots before swelling occurs.
  4. Cover the Burn. After cooling the burn with water, apply a clean, dry dressing to the burned area.
  5. Get Medical Help. Get the victim to a hospital. Do not underestimate the seriousness of the burn!
  6. Don't Use Ointments. Do not use ointments, sprays, first aid creams or butter.

Hope for Burn Victims
By funding basic research aimed at understanding how the body, especially skin, responds to burn injuries, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and other groups have played an important role in driving burn injury survival statistics upward. Among the advances that have contributed to the treatment of burn injuries are discoveries of the importance of proper wound care, adequate nutrition, and infection control. Extensive research has also led to the development of widely used commercially available skin-replacement products for the treatment of injury caused by severe burns. In very severely burned patients who have little or no remaining intact skin, artificial skin is an extremely useful material not only to cover and thereby protect the wounded area, but also to promote re-growth of a natural skin instead of scar tissue. Two classes of biomaterials useful in covering the wound are laboratory-grown skin cells and artificial skin; the two are sometimes used in combination. First, a burn surgeon must surgically remove the burned skin, and then the unprotected underlying tissue must be quickly covered. Alloderm and Integra are two examples of artificial skin replacement systems that were developed to help burn injury victims.

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