Insights from an urgent care clinic: What to do when you get burned
Burns are one of the most common injuries that require attention at an urgent care clinic. If you or someone close to you suffers a burn, there are things you can do to help before you get them to the nearest urgent care clinic.
Many different things can cause burns, including campfires, household appliances and the sun. In addition to causing pain, burns can lead to infection or, in a worst-case scenario, death. An urgent care clinic can help you assess damage quickly.
Speed is essential in dealing with burns, and so is knowledge. Even before you head to a clinic, you can act immediately to reduce injury, relieve pain, speed healing and promote full recovery.
The first thing to do to treat a burn is to remove the heat source. Identify the probable cause of the burn and act accordingly: Take the hand away from the stove or the fire, remove the hot object or get the person out of the sun.
Urgent care clinic tips: Cool down
Burns continue to damage tissue even after the heat source is removed. As quickly as possible, put the burned area into cold running water or snow, if it’s available. Run cold water over the burn for 10 to 15 minutes, and keep the burn cool for an hour. You can wrap it loosely in a cool, wet bandanna or other cloth.
Do not use ice or ice water because it can lead to further tissue damage.
Take off jewelry or clothing that could constrict the area if it swells.
How bad is the burn? Burns are classified into three categories: first-, second- and third-degree.
- First-degree burns are the mildest or least damaging. They cause pain and reddening of the skin.
- Second-degree burns penetrate to the lower layers of skin and are distinguished by pain, redness, swelling and blistering.
- Third-degree burns penetrate deep into muscle tissue. If the burned area appears white or blackened and charred, and the burned area is numb, it’s probably a third-degree burn.
Burns can also cause shock. If a burned person appears pale, disoriented and weak, and has clammy skin, bluish lips and fingernails, they are probably in shock.
After cooling the burned area, determine how to treat the injury depending on the type and degree of the burn.
The first thing to do is to clean the burn wound. Gently wash the burned area with clean, clear water, and pat it dry with a clean cloth or gauze. Be forewarned: washing might remove some burned skin.
- Treat first-degree burns with skin-care products, such as aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment. Give the patient pain medication, such as aspirin or acetaminophen.
- Second-degree burns might require treatment by an urgent care clinic or physician. After the burned area is cleaned, check for blisters. If the burned skin or blisters are not broken, the patient might not need a bandage. Yet if the burned skin or unbroken blisters will be exposed to dirt, or could be irritated by clothing, the patient will need a bandage.
- Whenever blisters burst or the skin cracks, that part of the body is vulnerable to infection. Cover with a bandage, possibly one treated with antibiotic ointment. Replace it with a clean bandage whenever it gets wet or dirty.
- Wrap the burn loosely so you don’t put pressure on the injured area, and never wrap tape or a bandage all the way around a burned hand, arm or leg. That can cause swelling, which can be painful. If the bandage sticks to the burn, soak it in warm water. Use a non-stick dressing if possible.
- Third-degree burns require the attention of an urgent care clinic or physician. A patient with large burns might require intravenous antibiotics or fluids to replace body fluid lost during the burn. If the burn is over a large part of the body, the patient might need skin grafts or synthetic skin, all of which requires the attention of a medical specialist.
When in doubt about the seriousness of a burn or any kind of injury, don’t hesitate to go to a clinic immediately.
Pain from a burn can be intense, and it last a long time. Follow-up treatments of burns, even changing bandages and dressings, can cause more pain. Pain management is a critical part of treating a burn, starting with first aid and a visit to your local clinic.
Administer immediate pain relief with aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen. A clinic or physician might also prescribe stronger prescription pain relief.
As your premier urgent care clinic in West Valley Utah, FirstMed Urgent Care Clinic will help you manage pain and recover as quickly as possible from burns.