How to treat a burn

Wilderness First Aid

Learning how to treat a burn may not only save your hiking or camping trip from being ruined, but may also save you a trip to the hospital. Follow these steps to learn how to treat first, second and third degree burns should an accident happen while you are having fun outdoors.

1st Degree Burn Treatment

First degree burns are generally superficial burns. When you are camping or backpacking they are most often caused by a campfire, coals or a hot stove. Instinctive reflexes most often will save you from seriously hurting yourself.

1st degree burn symptoms include redness of the skin, slight swelling of burned area and pain or tenderness.

1st degree burn treatment: If you are around a cool stream, quickly submerge the burned area.  Allow the cool water to flow past for 10 to 20 minutes. If you are not near a stream apply a cold compress for two minutes. Do not apply ice or snow directly to the skin. Blot dry gently with a sterile pad if necessary. An aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment from your first aid kit may be applied.

2nd Degree Burn Treatment

Second degree burns are considered partial thickness burns and generally happen when you are exposed heat source for a few seconds. These can happen from campfires, but more often than not in the backcountry occur from hot stove spills.

2nd degree burn symptoms include deep red or mottled appearance of the skin. Blisters may occur immediately or over a period of time.  The victim can expect significant pain, swelling and wet appearance of the skin’s surface.

2nd degree burn treatment:  Follow the same steps for treating a first degree burn.  If the burn occurs on the arms or legs try and elevate above the heart level if possible.  Depending on the extent and location medical attention may be needed immediately. Watch for signs of shock and infection.

3rd Degree Burn Treatment

Third degree burns are deep tissue burns.  These burns require medical attention immediately. Dial 911 if possible.  Appearance of the burn will be white or charred.  Watch for signs of shock.

DO NOT: Break Blisters

DO NOT: Remove any clothing that is stuck to burn

DO NOT: Apply any greasen ointments or medications to burn

DO NOT: Cover the burned area with any fabric that has loose fibers, such as cotton.

DO: If you are in the backcountry GET HELP asap.

DO: Give ibuprofen to help with swelling and pain.

DO: Know the signs of infection