Is ointment really a first aid treatment for scald?


by Akinlabi Bisola

A study carried out in the South-western part of Nigeria shows that 80 percent of burns occur in the home with scald taking 49 percent. Scald is a type of burn or injury caused by hot liquid or steam.

Scald can be more severe when steam impinges on naked skin because, steam can reach higher temperature than water and transfers latent heat by condensation.

On the other hand, when clothes are soaked with hot water the often take longer duration. Scalds are generally more common in children, especially from accidental spilling of hot liquids.

Scald is one of the most common injuries presenting to Emergency departments worldwide and account for 9.1 percent of the distribution of global child injury deaths particularly in low and middle income countries like Nigeria.

The severity of the injury will determine whether a person needs to visit the hospital or not. This severity is determined by what is called the Degree of Burn, first, second, third and fourth degrees are the classifications of burn we have.

The First degree burn is the least severe, it only damages the outer layer of the skin, redness,tenderness or pain, minor swelling, peeling as the burn heals are some of the signs of the first degree burn for scald.

The next in severity is the Second degree burn, which affects deeper layers of the skin some of the signs include, extreme redness, very sore or painful skin, blisters that may break.

When all layers of skin is affected it is referred to as the Third degree burn, which will require immediate medical attention( hospital not pharmacy). The last level of severity is the Fourth degree burn which affects the joints and bones.

Possessing knowledge on the severity classification is just as important as knowing what to do as a form of fist aid as doing the wrong thing could further increase the severity of the burn.

The immediate assistance given to any person suffering from either a minor or serious injury or illness to preserve life, prevent the condition from worsening and promote recovery is regarded as First Aid.

Usually first and second degree burn do not require hospital visit unless the injury gets infected which is why you need to keep the area of the injury clean.

When there is a an burn as a result of hot liquid or steam, the first thing to do is to remove move away from the source of heat so as not to increase the severity, cool the affected area for about 20 minutes with cool or lukewarm (not cold) water, you could also place under a running tap.

For Second degree burn, blisters will form but should never be popped, as it could increase chances of infection.

For third and fourth degree after cooling the affected area, wrap very loosely with clean bandages and visit the clinic for further immediate treatment as doctors consider this type of burn to be life threatening . If a First or Second degree burn is not getting better, please visit the clinic(not pharmacy).

Staying out of the sun is one of the ways of avoiding increased severity of the injury which is as a result of the heat the sun emits, there are certain actions that could also increase severity and risk of infection.

The use of Vaseline, butter, toothpaste and other form of ointment and oils is a very common action taken by people as a form of first aid, these increases the severity of the burn as ointments and oils(whether essential oil or not) traps heat, which is what caused the burn in the first place and could lead to the burn getting worse.

Egg whites is sometimes used as a form of first aid despite being denied by several research evidence, the egg is usually uncooked which could contain bacteria thereby increasing the risk of infection.

Many people turn to iced water to help the burn thinking the cold temperature from the ice will do a more effective job in cooling the burned skin but this could lead to Cold burn and can cause further damage to the site of the injury.

Honey also radiates heat hence it is not adviceable to use it as first aid for burnand also it is not sterile and could lead to the area getting infected . When the affected area is bandaged in the hospital do not remove the bandage for fresh air, this could lead to the area getting infected
Keeping children away from the kitchen area, use of back burners of the cooker, keeping handles of pot and cup turned in, never hold a child while carrying a hot liquid,cooking or carrying hot food, placing hot food or drink in the centre of the table, opening microwaved foods slowly and away from the face, allowing microwaved food to cool before opening, Never heat baby bottle in the microwave rather put bottle in a bowl of warm water.

These are some of the ways in which burn injuries caused by liquid or steam can be avoided. Ensure you keep your home safe.

Despite all efforts to keep the home safe, accidents still happen which is why it is important to have a first aid box at home, having a first aid box is as important as knowing how and when to use it’s content.

It’s not necessary that it has to be the original first aid box, it could be a carton just ensure some first aid kits are in it and label the carton .


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