When discussing general burn care with communities, we emphasize these actions as a first response to stabilize the wound and prevent infection prior to arrival at a health facility:
- Separate the person from the source of the burn if possible, without subjecting yourself to injury.
- Flood the burned area for at least 10 minutes with clean water which is cool/lukewarm in temperature. This cools the area to prevent further injury, removes burning chemicals (if present), and controls pain. Water which is warm or very cold may further damage tissue.
- Remove clothing, rings, watches, belts, shoes, etc., from the area surrounding the burn. Tissue will begin swelling soon after the injury, so these articles may become too tight for blood to flow properly.
- Keep the burn as clean as possible, applying a loose bandage until medical attention is received. Never remove items which are melted or stuck in the skin, as this can cause further damage, pain, and possible infections if not done properly by a health professional.
- Never squeeze or break blisters. When blisters are broken open, bacteria enter the skin. Warmth and moisture encourage the growth of bacteria, so infections can become serious in open blisters.
- Medical care should always be found for burns involving children, hands, feet, face, genital areas, or burns that go all the way around the arm or leg. Burns that go deeper than the first layer of skin or blisters over 5% of the body should also be immediately brought to the clinic or hospital.
Injuries like burns are common in many places, but are further complicated in rural areas due to the distance to the health center as well as a lack of sterile equipment and environment. These are their everyday challenges which can quickly get out of hand if infection control is not understood and applied quickly.