As we age, accidents around the home are a common concern, including burns. Whether or not you need to seek medical help after a burn depends on its severity. Burns are classified according to how deep the damage is.
First Degree Burns
Burns that affect only the outer layer of skin are called first degree burns. The skin is red and sensitive but dry, like a mild sunburn, and indeed sunburn does usually fall into this category. These can be painful but are not serious. If you get a first degree burn run cool water over it for as long as necessary to reduce the pain, but do not use ice, as ice can damage the skin.
Second Degree Burns
In second degree burns several layers of skin are damaged, so the skin will be moist and appear swollen or blistered. The treatment is the same. Run cold water over it. First, though, remove all jewelry in case of possible swelling. You can use mild soap and water to clean the area. If the skin is broken apply a bandage and antibiotic ointment. Change the bandage every day or if it gets wet. Do not use butter, oil, salve, or anything else; these things won’t help and could cause infection. In fact, burns can be prone to infection, especially in seniors, and sometimes serious second degree burns can progress to third degree, so if you are concerned about the burn have it looked at by a professional.
Third Degree Burns
In third degree burns all the layers of skin are affected, and possibly underlying tissue. The burn will be dry and appear white or charred black, and sometimes it breaks open. It may not hurt, because the nerves are dead. Call for emergency treatment immediately. In the meantime, have the victim lie down to prevent shock. Cover the burn with a clean cloth but do not apply anything to it.
These may be red, blistered, or blackened depending on the chemical. The chemical may also affect the eyes and the lungs. If these are not too serious they can be flushed with water; otherwise medical help is needed.
Electrical burns caused by electric shock may not look serious but there may be internal damage. Don’t approach the victim unless the electrical source has been neutralized and you are sure it is safe. Have the victim lie down and raise their legs slightly. Cover them to keep them warm and cover the burn with a clean cloth. Get medical help.