Burn Treatment Techniques

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Introduction on How to Treat A Burn Injury

Assessing the severity of a burn is an important part of determining how to treat the burn injury, as well as deciding whether to evacuate the burned victim.


Difficulty: Moderate Steps


Step One

The first step in how to treat a burn injury is the most logical step. Look at the burn site to be treated: If the skin is red and painful but there are no blisters, chances are it’s a superficial burn.


Step Two

Look for blistering and wetness and ask about degree of pain. If blistering is present and pain is severe, the burn is probably partial thickness.


Step Three

Consider a full-thickness burn if the injured person reports no pain, or just a dull pain, in the center of the burned area. The skin may also look charred and grayish.


Step Four

Look at the injured person’s palm: The surface area of the palm represents approximately 1 percent of the person’s TBSA (total body surface area).


Step Five

Compare this area to the extent of the burn to arrive at a TBSA figure. Burns covering more than 15 percent (15%) TBSA are life-threatening, especially partial- and full-thickness burns.


Step Six

Continue with treatment for the burn (see “How to Treat a Burn in the Wilderness”).

Tips & Warnings

  • The terminology of burn depth has changed: Superficial, partial-thickness and full-thickness used to be known as first-, second- and third-degree. You may be more familiar with that naming system.
  • Blisters may take up to 24 hours to develop in partial-thickness burns, so lack of blisters doesn’t necessarily mean the burn is only superficial. Degree of pain may be a more reliable immediate measure.
  • Burns in certain areas are more dangerous than others: the face, neck, hands, feet, armpits, groin, genitals and buttocks.
  • When in doubt, evacuate the burn victim.

*This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. > Back to Catastrophic Injuries Main Page.