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How to treat burns

The size and depth of the burn determine its treatment and management. All burns, as far as possible, should be cooled with running water for at least 15 minutes, before medical help arrives.

A minor first-degree burn typically is treated at home with the application of an antibiotic ointment from a home emergency kit. In the case of a major second-degree burn, treatment options include occlusive dressing (Air- and water-tight dressing), and surgical interventions. The latter includes wound debridement (removal of non-living tissue from wound), excision (surgical removal of part or all of the non-living tissue) and skin grafting.

“There is a team of doctors at SGH exploring a newer occlusive Biobrane dressing for burn patients. This new intervention can provide faster healing, resulting in better rehabilitation outcomes and a shorter hospital stay,” says Ms Ng.

Severe third-degree burns would definitely require prolonged treatment. This is because one of the major post-burns complication is hypertrophic scarring (usually slightly raised and occurs within the initial area of the wound). In view of this, patients often have to be on scar management rehabilitation involving skin grafting and scar therapy, and it can take between 18 months and two years to heal. Patients with burns that extend over a joint will require occupational and physical therapy too.

“Because of the pain associated with burns, patients may restrict their movements, but they should be encouraged to return to school or work, and their normal daily activities as soon as possible,” says Ms Ng.

Do's and don'ts when a burn or scald occurs

Stay calmPanic
Place affected area under cold running water for at least 15 minutesAttempt to remove anything directly sticking to a burn
Remove watch, belt and other constricting itemsApply any lotion / ointment to the affected area

Rush burn victim to the nearest hospital for medical attention


Tips to prevent burns in young children

  • Keep your child out of the kitchen as far as possible.
  • Before you put your baby or toddler in the bath, test the temperature of the water using your elbow.
  • Keep matches, lighters and lit candles out of young children's sight and reach.
  • Keep hot drinks away from young children.

Tips to prevent burns in people with diabetes

  • Before going into the bath, test the water temperature with your elbow.
  • Avoid using a contact warming device such as a heater or a hot pack.

“Diabetics experiencing diabetic neuropathy may develop burns from soaking their feet in hot water, and using a warming device such as a heater,” says Ms Ng.

For more information on the ​types of burns and symptoms of it, see previous page.

Ref: Q15​