21 Jan 2009 - Story by Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb
Article Views (non-unique): 1292
IN Namibia we continue to lose lives when houses/dwellings catch fire. Fires are mainly started by candles, cooking fires and faulty electrical wiring.
Fires and other equipment that emit heat can cause burns in various degrees to the human body and if not treated can cause disfigurement and even death. Let us then look at the types of burns and the treatment and prevention of burns. It is imperative for us to know the basics of burns and what to do in case of an emergency. Maybe you can save a life. One never knows, but it is better to be ready and knowledgeable.
To distinguish a minor burn from a serious one, the first step is to determine the degree and extent of damage to body tissues. The three classifications of first-degree burn, second-degree burn and third-degree burn will help you determine emergency care.
First-degree burn: The least serious burns are those in which only the outer layer of skin is burnt. The skin is usually red, with swelling and pain sometimes present. The outer layer of skin hasn't been burnt through.
Treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn unless it involves substantial portions of the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or a major joint.
Second-degree burn: When the first layer of skin has been burnt through and the second layer of skin (dermis) also is burnt, the injury is called a second-degree burn. Blisters develop and the skin takes on an intensely reddened, splotchy appearance. Second-degree burns produce severe pain and swelling. If the burnt area is large or if the burn is on the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or over a major joint, treat it as a major burn and get medical help immediately.
For minor burns, including first-degree burns and second-degree burns, take the following action:
Cool the burn. Hold the burnt area under cold running water for at least five minutes, or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cold water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Don't put ice on the burn! Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Don't use fluffy cotton, which may irritate the skin. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burnt skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burnt skin, reduces pain and protects blistered skin. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever but never give aspirin to children or teenagers. Minor burns usually heal without further treatment. They may heal with pigment changes, meaning the healed area may be a different colour from the surrounding skin. Watch for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. If infection develops, seek medical help. Don't use ice. Putting ice directly on a burn can cause frostbite, further damaging your skin. Don't apply butter or ointments to the burn. This could prevent proper healing. Don't break blisters since broken blisters are vulnerable to infection.
Most third-degree burns are serious and painless and involve all layers of the skin and cause permanent tissue damage. Fat, muscle and even bone may be affected. Areas may be charred black or appear dry and white. Difficulty inhaling and exhaling, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other toxic effects may occur if smoke inhalation accompanies the burn.
For major burns, call for emergency medical assistance (ambulance). Until an emergency unit arrives, follow these steps:
Don't remove burnt clothing. However, do make sure the victim is no longer in contact with smoldering materials or is exposed to smoke or heat. Don't immerse large severe burns in cold water. Doing so could cause shock.
Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement). If there is no breathing or other sign of circulation, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Elevate the burnt body part or parts. Raise above heart level, when possible. Cover the area of the burn. Use a cool, moist, sterile bandage; clean, moist cloth; or moist towels.
Please do not: apply ointment, butter, ice, medications, cream, oil spray, or any household remedy to a severe burn.
Do not breathe, blow, or cough on the burn. Do not disturb blistered or dead skin. Do not remove clothing that is stuck to the skin. Do not give the person anything by mouth, if there is a severe burn. Do not immerse a severe burn in cold water. This can cause shock. Do not place a pillow under the person's head if there is an airways burn. This can close the airways.
Here is what you can do to help prevent burns:
Teach children about fire safety and the hazards of matches and fireworks. Prevent children from climbing on top of a stove or grabbing hot items like irons and oven doors. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so that children can't grab them and they can't be accidentally knocked over. Remove electrical cords from floors and keep them out of reach.
Know about and practice fire escape routes and drills at home, work and school.
You have to call emergency services/ambulance if:
The burn is extensive (the size of your palm or larger).
The burn is severe (third degree).
You aren't sure how serious it is.
The burn is caused by chemicals or electricity.
The person shows signs of shock.
The person inhaled smoke.
Physical abuse is the known or suspected cause of the burn.
Call emergency services/ambulance immediately if signs of infection develop. These signs include increased pain, redness, swelling, drainage or pus from the burn, swollen lymph nodes or fever. Also call immediately if there are signs of dehydration: thirst, dry skin, dizziness, lightheadedness, or decreased urination. Children, elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system (for example, HIV) should be seen right away.
Be prepared and take preventative measures at all times!
Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb is the founder and chief instructor of Namibia Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy. He can be contacted at: 0812782121.