Have you ever touched a hot object briefly and recoiled when it was hotter than you expected? Perhaps your skin turned red and caused pain for a few days, while never becoming scarred or blistered. Although you thought of the pain and itching as a minor inconvenience, you chose not to seek medical care for it. You may have experienced a first-degree burn and not realized it.
The mildest category of burn, the first-degree burn is often referred to as a superficial burn. It affects the outer layer of skin, the epidermis. Upon contact with a heat source, the epidermis becomes damaged and turns red, and the burn site becomes acutely painful. Superficial burns often go undiagnosed, and most heal on their own. However, some people do seek out medical care for burn treatment and are better off as a result.
Usually, first-degree burns happen on small areas of the skin. The burn site becomes dry and discolored, usually red or pink. Swelling may occur. First-degree burns do not form blisters. The skin is generally unbroken, and can be itchy or sensitive to the touch.
Exposure to hot surfaces, fires, strong chemicals (e.g. acid), electricity, or scalding liquids or gasses can all result in various kinds of burns. First-degree burns, being mild, are generally the result of contact with a hot surface or liquid. However, they can also be a sign of abuse. Radiation can cause a first-degree burn, as with mild sunburn.
There are a few mild risks with first-degree burns. Although the chance of long-term damage is minimal, it is possible, especially when the burn is of a larger size. Of particular concern are children, who suffer more from a similar burn than adults. Burns that cover more than 10% of the body are considered severe, and require emergency treatment, even when they are superficial.
Although 1st-degree burns do not breach the skin, they do indeed weaken the epidermis, and thus can become a gateway for viral or bacterial infection.
With a large enough burn, an individual can go into shock; shock is a condition in which the body is not getting enough oxygen. Again, children are more at risk of shock when burned. If a person goes into shock, call 911 immediately, and try to get the person comfortable and stable. Elevate the feet if possible, and (if you have training) perform CPR if the individual is struggling to breathe.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body’s internal temperature rises to 37°C or higher. This results in a number of unpleasant symptoms, including:
If an individual experiences these symptoms, they should be taken to a quiet, cool place to cool down. If they cannot, heat stroke can occur. If a person is experiencing heat stroke, they should be taken to an ER immediately. Excessive heat can cause brain damage, and be fatal.
Although quite rare with a first-degree burn, it is still possible for such a burn to leave a long-term scar. In such a case, the burn site will be discolored, and will likely not have any other symptoms. Over time, it should disappear.
Again, children pose the greater concern here. A burn can be traumatic, and sometimes trauma counseling can be needed to help the burn victim adjust afterward. This is especially true if the burn is a result of abuse.
To avoid burns, the practical individual considers general safety measures in the home and the workplace. The design of the facility is the first consideration. A well-designed structure will provide an effective escape route in the event of a fire. Modifications such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will help alert the occupants. Basic safety training is essential for helping people use dangerous tools and materials; such wisdom applies just as much at home as at work. Common sense goes a long way to avoiding accidents that cause burns. Handling dangerous materials requires maturity and professionalism, so it is best left to individuals who will respect the workplace. Don’t take unnecessary chances.
If your burn has no blister or scarring, and is merely red and swollen, this is a first-degree burn. One can avoid a trip to the ER, unless the burn covers more than 10% of the body. As discussed above, if there are signs of shock or heat exhaustion, it is best to call 911, and get the affected party to the ER as soon as possible.
During an ER visit, your attending physician may provide an antibiotic ointment, as well as a proper gauze dressing for your burn. Ideally, your doctor will show you how to change the dressing yourself. He or she may also prescribe medication for mitigating pain and/or swelling.
With a first-degree burn, one can get significant relief simply from natural aloe vera gel, or from naturally-derived products that feature it. Try to keep the burn dressed, and elevated above the heart. Many of these measures are used to soothe the victim’s pain and avoid infection. However, even if one does not use them, the burn should heal on its own in a number of days with proper rest.
Wound Care OC has extensive experience treating victims of all kinds of burns, and have all the products we need to treat yours. If you are currently suffering from a mild burn, don’t take it lightly. Make sure it is properly diagnosed and dressed. Get the proper antibiotic protection to avoid risk of infection. And most importantly, get the guidance of a team of wound care professionals, who know exactly how to help you make a complete recovery. Call us or stop by today, and we would be happy to make an appointment with you to evaluate your healthcare needs.