Burn treatment can be broadly divided into burn care offered at home and treatment provided in a hospital. The type of treatment a patient needs depends on the cause and severity of the burn. It is important to take patients with severe burns to the hospital for treatment. If patients are being cared for at home and the signs of infections or complications develop, they should be taken to receive medical attention. Burns can be very dangerous.
Burns themselves are classified as first, second, or third degree. First degree burns, also known as superficial burns, involve only the upper layers of the skin. They can often be treated at home, although if the burn is an inhalation burn, chemical burn, or electrical burn, a doctor should examine the patient. Second degree or partial thickness burns penetrate deeper into the skin. They are more serious, and medical attention may be needed, especially if a burn covers a large area of the skin.
Third degree or full thickness burns are very serious and require burn treatment in a hospital. These burns penetrate all the way into the deepest layers of the skin. The patient often reports that the burn is not painful, as a result of damage to the nerve endings, and the burn appears white and thick. If large areas of the skin are covered by third degree burns, the patient can be at risk of very serious complications.
Types of burns include thermal, electrical, chemical, inhalation, and scald burns. As a general rule, chemical, inhalation, and electrical burns should be treated in a hospital. Mild thermal and scald burns can be managed very well with burn treatment at home. Deeper burns or burns acquired in circumstances where there is a risk of contamination should be treated in a hospital.
Immediate first aid burn treatment involves cooling the burn with cool water. If the burn is being cared for at home, antibiotic ointments can be applied to limit infection and to keep the skin moist. Over time, the skin will heal and the upper layers will blister and slough off. During healing, it is important to avoid picking at or puncturing the blisters.
For serious burns, while water cooling in the immediate aftermath of the injury can help limit the damage, the patient needs to be taken to the hospital. Hospital burn treatment can involve debridement of dead tissue, administration of fluids to address fluid loss associated with burns, surgical grafts of skin and tissue, and monitoring for signs of infection.