Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Introduction to burns
- How are burns classified?
- What is the significance of the amount of body area burned?
- How important is the location of a burn?
- What about electrical burns?
- What about chemical burns?
- First aid for burns
What about chemical burns?
Burns can also occur when chemicals are spilled onto the body and generate a reaction that creates heat. Chemical burns may be classified by their pH or acidity.
- Acids are those with pH less than 7 and include common household compounds
like acetic acid, hydrochloric acid, or sulfuric acid.
- Bases or alkali compounds have a pH greater than 7. Ammonia is a common alkali found in the home.
First aid for burns
For major burns (second and third degree burns)
- Remove the victim from the burning area, remembering not to put the
rescuer in danger.
- Remove any burning material from the patient.
- Call 911 or activate the emergency response system in your area if needed.
- Once the victim is in a safe place, keep them warm and still. Try to wrap the injured areas in a clean sheet if available. DO NOT use cold water on the victim; this may drop the body temperature and cause hypothermia.
Burns of the face, hands, and feet should always be considered a significant injury (although this may exclude sunburn.
For minor burns (first degree burns or second degree burns involving a small area of the body)
- Gently clean the wound with lukewarm water.
- Though butter has been used as a home remedy, it should NOT be used on
- Rings, bracelets, and other potentially constricting articles should be
removed (edema, or swelling from inflammation may occur and the item may cut
into the skin).
- The burn may be dressed with a topical antibiotic
ointment like Bacitracin
- If there is concern that the burn is deeper and may be
second or third degree in nature, medical care should be accessed.
- Tetanus immunization should be updated if needed.
For electrical burns
Victims of electrical burns should always seek medical care.
For chemical burns
- Identify the chemical that was involved.
- Contact the Poison Control Center in your area
or your local hospital's Emergency Department. The United States National
Poison Hotline is 1-800-222-1222. You will be automatically linked to
the nearest poison control center. Many chemical burns may be treated with local
wound care. Some chemicals can cause life- and limb-threatening injuries and
need emergent intervention.
- Victims with chemical burns to their eyes should always seek emergency care.
Last Editorial Review: 10/28/2008
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