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Burns usually don't occur while riding your bike. But, maybe you spilled coffee on yourself after the ride. So for the sake of completeness, here's the straight dope on burns.

The seriousness of a burn depends on the size of the burn, location of the burn, and the depth of the burn. Partial thickness burns
include first-degree (where the skin is red and tender) and second-degree (with blisters or loose skin and oozing). Full thickness burns, also called third-degree burns, require special care and should be seen by the doctor.

Turn to the side of the heel, resulting from touching the foot against the tailpipe while riding a motorcycle barefoot.

burn2.jpg (12367 bytes)

burn4.jpg (11211 bytes) Third-degree (full thickness) burns are usually white in color. If red, the burn does NOT blanch when pressure is placed on the skin. The skin usually feels thick and stiff -- it doesn't stretch and bend like normal skin. Because the nerve fibers are "cooked," a pinprick won't be felt in the burned area.

This is a third-degree burn of the upper arm. The patient doesn't feel the pinprick.

Burns of critical areas like the hands, face, or genitals are best managed by the doctor. Scarring in these areas can be a problem. Very small burns on the hand (less than a thumbprint's size) are usually safe to treat at home, however. On the rest of the body, any burn larger than the victim's palm should be seen by the physician.

This child fell into a campfire. Note the large blisters on the back of the hand. The pale areas on the tops of the middle and ring fingers are third degree burn. This type of "specialty burn" is best managed by a burn center, such as the University of Utah Medical Center.

burn1.jpg (13475 bytes)

Like any other skin injury, second- and third-degree burns can become infected. Deep second-degree burns (and third-degree burns) will usually leave a scar. Burned skin must be protected, yet it must be stretched as it heals so the scar doesn't limit mobility.
See the doctor if:
    any burn is larger than the victim's palm
    a burn is in a critical area (hand, face, genitals)
    pain can't be controlled.

Immediate care:
Put Burn Free pads or gel over the burn. Elevate the injured part. When pain is controlled, place a dressing. Usually, a non-stick pad, then gauze, then a kling wrap protects a modest-sized burn well. If burn involves surfaces that will touch (such as adjacent fingers or toes), be sure the dressing separates the surfaces so they don't touch.

Ongoing care:
Change the dressing daily. If the bandage sticks, soak it in warm water with a drop of soap. Dilute hydrogen peroxide can help soften a thickly crusted bandage. Depending on the depth of the burn, healing can take from 1 week to 4 weeks.

Watch for:
See the doctor if there is redness around the wound, red streaks, swelling, drainage, fever, tender bumps in the groin or armpit upsteam from the burn, or an unexplained increase in pain or tenderness.  See section on infection.

 [First Aid Index Page]