Step 1: Determine the degree of the burn.
In order to know how to treat a burn, you must first figure out if it is a major or minor burn. The following are the characteristics of the three types of burns you could suffer from:
• 1st degree burn: These burns are minor burns that only involve the outer layer of the skin. This type of burn usually causes redness, swelling, and pain on the affected area.
• 2nd degree burn: second-degree burns can be major or minor depending on the size and the affected area. Burns that are smaller than 3 inches can be treated as minor burns. If the burn area is larger than 3 inches or affects the hands, feet, face, groins, buttocks or a major joint, it should be treated as a major burn. Second–degree burns can cause swelling, pain, blisters, and red, white or splotchy skin.
• 3rd degree burn: third-degree burns are considered major burns because they involve all layers of the skin and the underlying fat. This type of burn usually causes charred black or white skin, difficulty breathing, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Step 2: Take measures to treat the burn.
For minor burns:
• Remove items from the burned area: If you have any rings, bracelets, or other accessories in the burned area, remove them quickly before the area swells up.
• Cool off the burn: Run the affected area through cool water, but make sure it is cool and not cold water. You could also apply a cold compress over the burned area.
• Apply cream or gels to relieve pain: Using moisturizer, aloe very gel, or hydrocortisone cream can help relieve the burn symptoms.
• Don’t break blisters: If you develop blisters larger than your little fingernail, a doctor will have to remove the blister. Do not break blisters by yourself.
• If a blister breaks, clean the area: Gently wash the area with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover it up. Seek medical attention if you notice signs of infection, like pain, redness, swelling, or oozing.
For major burns:
• Call 911: Seek immediate medical attention. Hand burns should be taken seriously and should be evaluated immediately to determine whether or not the victim should be admitted to a burn unit.
• Perform CPR if needed.
• Don’t remove burned clothing: If you have access to the burn victim, do not remove any burned clothing stuck to the skin.
• Remove any restrictive accessories: Remove belts, jewelry, or anything that can limit circulation in the burned area, especially around the neck. Burned areas tend to swell quickly.
• Make sure the person is out of harm’s way: If you can do so safely, make sure the burn victim is not exposed to smoke, heat, or smoldering materials.
• Do not expose large burn areas to cold water: Do not submerge or run large burned areas under cold water.
• Elevate the burned area: Elevate the burned area above heart level.
• Cover the burned area: If required, cover the area of the burn with a cool, moist cloth.
Cuts and Puncture Wounds
Step 1: Identify if you’ve suffered from a cut or a puncture wound.
A cut is a break of the skin and it can be near the surface of the skin or deeper. A cut can be deep, smooth or jagged.
A puncture wound is a break of the skin caused by a pointed object, such as a knife, scissors, teeth, etc.
Step 2: Contact a medical professional if the cut or puncture wound is major.
Here’s how to determine if you are dealing with a major wound:
• If the wound or cut is more than a quarter inch deep or reaches the bone.
• If the bleeding cannot be stopped, even after several minutes of applying pressure.
• If the person injured cannot feel the affected area.
• If a person has been bitten by an animal or another person.
• If the wound or cut was caused by a rusty object.
• If there is an object or debris stuck in the wound or cut.
Remember to never try to clean a major wound or cut, and never remove any object or debris stuck in there.
Step 3: Take measures to treat the cut or puncture wound.
For minor cuts:
• Use pressure to stop the bleeding.
• Wash the cut with soap and water.
• If available, apply rubbing alcohol on the cut.
• Apply antibacterial ointment and cover the cut with a clean bandage or cloth.
For minor puncture wounds:
• Rinse the wound for several minutes under running water and then wash with soap.
• Look for any objects stuck inside the wound. If you find anything, do not remove it yourself, seek medical attention.
• Apply rubbing alcohol and antibacterial ointment.
• Cover the wound with a clean cloth or bandage.
If in doubt, always seek medical attention from a hand specialist or emergency service.
At the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas, we treat all kinds of hand, wrist, and arm injuries. Keep our contact information nearby just in case you ever need to reach us.