Burns can be one of the most traumatic injuries to deal with.  The victim can be in severe pain, there can be the smell of burnt flesh and depending on the degree of the burn, and charred clothing can be attached to the victims flesh.  The first step in dealing with burns is to determine the level of the burn.  It should be realized that First and second degree burns can be caused by prolonged exposure to intense sunlight.


Classification of burn:

         First Degree skin is reddened

         Second Degree skin is blistered

         Third Degree skin cooked or charred, the burn may extend into the underlying tissue.  In sever cases skin or appendages may be burned off.




  • First degree and second degree burns, only covering up to about 1% (like the size of a hand) body surface:

1.       Wash/soak burned portions in cold water

2.     Wash burned area in soapy water

3.     Place sterile gauze over burned area

4.    Bandage burned area snugly


  • Large burns of any degree

1.       If a doctor or hospital is available within 30 minutes or less:

         Treat victim for shock

         Get victim to advanced medical treatment, attempt no treatment

2.     If advanced medical aid is not readily available (like in an outdoor/camping/backpacking setting):

         Remove clothing from burned area.  Cut around clothing/cloth that sticks to burned area

         Apply antiseptic cream to burned area

         Cover burned area with sterile dressings

         Bandage snugly (not too tight however)

         Treat for shock

         If victim is conscious, allow them to drink all the water they desire.  Commercial sport drinks are even better than water if available

         Get victim as soon as possible to advanced medical support


Do Not!

  • Touch the burned area with fingers
  • Breath on the burn
  • Break or drain blisters
  • Change any dressings that have been applied.  Only advanced medical support should change or remove any dressings applied as first aid


In part from USDA Handbook #227

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