​Burn Education

The experts at the UPMC Mercy Burn Center recommend this information for burn awareness, prevention, and treatment during an emergency.

Burn Injury Facts:

  • Each year, 40,000 Americans are hospitalized for burn injuries.
  • Almost half of all burns happen at home.
  • Scalds from hot liquids are the leading cause of burns among young children.
  • Burn injuries can happen in seconds, but their effects can last a lifetime.

What Is a Burn?

A burn is an injury from heat, cold, chemicals, radiation, or electricity. Burns can be minor or very serious, depending on what part and how much of the body is affected.
Burns can affect different layers of the skin:
  • First-degree burns: The top (epidermis) layer of skin turns red/pink and is mildly painful. Some swelling may occur but no blisters form.
  • Second-degree burns: The top and middle (dermis) layers of skin are injured, causing blisters, pain, and swelling. The blisters may break, and the skin underneath will be red/pink and wet.
  • Third-degree burns: All skin layers are destroyed, and the skin becomes white, dry, and painless.

How to Treat a Burn

Burns require fast medical attention. However, there are some steps you can take to help until medical attention is available. The following steps explain what to do when you or someone you care for is burned.
  • Drop and Roll: Drop and roll to extinguish clothing fire. (For scalds, immediately remove hot, wet clothing.)
  • Cool the Burn: Cool the burned areas immediately with cool water. Doing this has three benefits:
    • It reduces skin temperature and stops the burning process.
    • It numbs the pain.
    • It prevents or reduces swelling.
  • Remove Burned Clothing: Lay the person flat: Remove non-sticking clothing. Loosen or remove tight clothing, jewelry, or boots before swelling occurs.
  • Cover the Burn: After cooling the burn with water, apply a clean dry dressing to the burned area. Cover the person to keep him or her warm.
  • Get Medical Help: Get the person to a hospital. Do not underestimate the seriousness of the burn!
  • Don't Use Ointments: Do not use ointments, sprays, first aid creams or butter.

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