Burn injuries range from minor blisters to more severe cases, and it is important to know how to respond to the different cases.
A first-degree burn is the simplest injury; this burn manifests in redness and irritation. A sunburn, for instance, can be a first-degree burn.
In any case, the patient should cover the affected area with water for 15 minutes. The temperature of this water should be mediate. No matter how severe the burn is, these 15 minutes are crucial, said Marwan Ahmad al Zarouni, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Rashid Hospital.
“Do it while somebody is starting the car or flagging a taxi to go to the hospital. It will release the pain, stop the expansion of the burn wound, cool down the area and the skin will recover faster once it is treated.”
In case of a first-degree burn, this treatment should be enough. A patient might want to go to a general practitioner, who will clean and dress the wound. Some cream can be applied.
“Some people apply toothpaste before they have reached the hospital. This is both good and bad; good because it reduces the pain. But it is difficult to peel it off, and the peeling can be a painful experience,” said Marwan.
If the burn is more serious, a hospital visit is required. And if the burn is critical, a specialist is needed.
Rashid Hospital is one of the two hospitals in the UAE with a specialised burn unit. It receives patients with critical burn wounds coming from Dubai and the northern emirates.
One indicator of a critical burn is the depth of the burn, explains Marwan who is in charge of the Wound & Stoma Care Unit. “A third-degree burn is the deepest; the area will show discolouration, there will be no vascularity and no sensation, while a second-degree burn appears with blisters on the surface.
“When the burn covers more than 15 per cent of the body including sensitive areas such as the face, neck, chest, genital area, hands, feet, or female breast, the patient will be admitted to this hospital,” said Marwan.
Another critical factor is smoke inhalation. “When the patient suffers from inhalation problems, the case is serious. Smoke inhalation can be very dangerous, because it can burn the lungs.
“An old patient with deep burns and inhalation problems may be at life risk, while a young patient without inhalation problems is at less risk.”
According to the specialist, burns do not result in loss of life very often. It varies somewhere between once per month and once every three months, he indicated, looking at an average of about 600 patients per year in Rashid Hospital.