A prepper and outdoorsman’s life is not without its cuts, scrapes, or burns. With burns It seems like burn treatment should be complicated. After all, all sorts of things cause burns. There are heat sources like fire, stoves, boiling water, and even electricity that can cause burns. UV radiation emitting from the sun is the most common type of burn a prepper and outdoorsman will face.
Thankfully, despite the many different causes of burns there are out there, the first steps to treating them are all the same: make sure the skin is clean and make sure the skin is cool. Memorizing these steps and making them a part of your everyday prepping, hiking or camping routine can prevent your body from going into shock. Follow these steps:
- Limit the damage. Remove any hot or restrictive clothing and run cold (not iced) water over the affected area to wash the burn as well as cool down the skin and ease the pain.
- Apply aloe vera. If available, apply aloe vera from either a plant or from a bottle.
- Assess damage. During a disaster, it’s not wise to take unnecessary risks; in severe cases, however, it may be wise to take some risks in order to get professional medical care. While most burns are not life threatening, those that are near your face or neck should be watched closely, lest they cause problems with your airway or represent respiratory-tract damage. If your burn covers more than 10 percent of your body, or if the burn victim is of particularly young or old age, it’s also wise to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
You can estimate skin surface by using the rule of nines, which assesses the percentage of burn and is used to help guide treatment decisions including fluid resuscitation and becomes part of the guidelines to determine transfer to a burn unit. Each of your arms account for 9 percent of your total body surface. Your head and neck are 9 percent together. Each leg is 18 percent. The front part of your trunk is 18 percent, as is the back part. The last 1 percent goes to the genital area. Another way to estimate skin surface is to measure with your palm, which is close to 1 percent.
It’s important to note that the head-to-body proportion is different for kids under four years old. The head and neck account for 18 percent instead of 9, while the legs account for 13.5 percent each instead of 18 percent each.
First-Degree Burn: Red, Painful Skin
Typically, first-degree burns are the mild sunburns that make your skin red and painful. Try cool compresses or aloe vera, along with an anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen, for pain. The burn should heal in a few days with resultant sloughing of the damaged top layer of skin.
Second-Degree Burn: Rise of the Blisters
You’ll know when you’ve got a second-degree burn when your skin starts to blister. The blisters may pop up immediately or after several hours, and it normally takes them two or three weeks to heal. Once fully healed, you should experience minimal scarring as long as they are kept clean to avoid infection. Do not pop the blisters yourself. Blisters are your body’s way of keeping a wound sterile and protected, much like a natural sterile bandage. If the blisters are large, they can leak anyway, but once you puncture a blister or it starts leaking on its own, it becomes an open wound prone to infections, so then you need to do the following:
- Debride the blister.
- Wash the wound with soap and water. Towel dry around it.
- Apply antibiotic ointment or honey (not for babies)
- Apply a gauze-and-tape dressing.
- Change the dressing daily or if it gets wet or dirty: Clean off any dirt or crust buildup, then reapply the ointment and bandage.
If the redness starts moving into the healthy skin, you need an oral antibiotic.
Third-Degree Burn: Blanched or Speckled Skin
A third-degree burn damages all the skin layers and can make the skin appear blanched or speckled white, or gone altogether. You often don’t feel pain with a third-degree burn since the nerve fibers have been killed. Depending on the amount of surface area, third-degree burns will take months to heal and will definitely result in some scarring. To prevent even more scarring as a result of restriction, keep affected joints as mobile as possible.
These are burns where professional medical treatment is necessary, but if you’re not able to get to a doctor immediately, treat it like a second-degree burn. Unless you’re going to get help within a day or two, the only chance for new healing is to debride the black, leathery, dead tissue that will form, called an eschar. Most full-thickness third-degree burns over an inch or two in diameter are going to require skin grafts to heal. Until then, keep a burn like that clean and covered because infection is the biggest danger. A third-degree burn destroys the layer of skin that produces new skin cells—the layer that allows your skin to grow back. The only skin that’s going to grow now will be from the undamaged outer edges, so you need to remove the eschar to allow the edges to grow inward and eventually meet.
Fourth-Degree Burn: Fat or Muscle Damage
Fourth degree burns down to the fat or muscle. If it goes into those non-skin layers some people call that a fourth-degree. Preppers and outdoorsman should treat them the same as they would a third-degree burn until medical assistance can be sought. Burns higher than fourth degree should seek immediate medical attention.