First aid knowledge for burns needed
A study in today’s issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal reinforces the need for people to know simple first aid
procedures for burns.
The study, of 165 Middlemore Hospital patients, showed that only 40 percent of burns patients received adequate burns
first aid treatment. Seventy percent of children had received inadequate treatment.
The correct first aid treatment for burns is to immerse the burned body part under cold running tap water for at least
10 minutes. Cooling of the burned tissue is an important process in limiting the degree of tissue damage, according to
the study, Burns treatment for children and adults: a study of initial burns first aid and hospital care.
Parents of young children, in particular, should be remember this simple advice about treating burns before seeking
medical treatment, said Dr Tricia Briscoe, who chairs the NZMA's GP Council.
“Applying the correct first aid treatment reduces the severity of the burn injury, and reduces the need for medical
procedures, particularly for scalds which children are more likely to get.
If cold running water is not available, milk or soft drinks are effective first aid treatments for burns. Ice should
never be used to cool a burn, and applying butter or toothpaste will have no effect on the cooling process, and may
contribute to further tissue destruction.
The study showed that patients who had received adequate burns first aid treatment were less likely to need skin
grafting treatment, and may stay in hospital for less time. For scalds in particular, adequate burns first aid treatment
reduced the need for skin grafting procedures from 20 percent to 4 percent.
The study’s authors, medical student Adrian Skinner and plastic surgeon Bruce Peat, have called for a national education
strategy to increase knowledge among the public about the importance of burns first aid treatment with cold water.
The study is attached separately.