It will have happened to everyone at least once in their life (to me, even twice) to have suffered some minor injury in the home environment such as a small burn or scald, caused by tiredness or, more frequently, carelessness.
Hitting a hot oven or inadvertently touching a boiling pan is never pleasant but, more importantly, may leave a permanent mark on the skin if the injury is not treated properly.
A minor burn can cause concern on any occasion, but even more so when we are on holiday away from home and do not have a doctor nearby.
So don‘ t worry, below you will find a vademecum on how to deal with minor burns and burns at home, and a short list of medicines to keep in your suitcase.
WARNING – The indications you will find in this article should not and are in no way intended to replace the advice of a doctor. They are the result of my personal experience and that of a pharmacist. If you have any doubts, always consult your doctor.
Burns and scalds: information
Let’s start by saying that the skin consists of three layers: epidermis (the most superficial layer), dermis (the layer immediately below) and hypodermis (the deepest layer).
Depending on the severity of the skin injury, the burn is divided into 3 degrees:
first degree burn when only the epidermis is affected;
second degree burn when the dermis is also affected;
third-degree burn the most severe burn that can affect the fatty and muscular tissue and even the bones.
In this article you will find out how to treat first degree burns, i.e. superficial burns that do not require medical intervention.
First degree burns
First-degree burns are minor burns that usually heal within a few days and without any particular consequences. Such injuries are caused, for example, by contact with a hot liquidorsun exposure without adequate protection.
Burns and scalds: how to treat them and which medicines to pack
What to do in case of burns
In case of a burn, the absolute most important thing to do is to cool the injured part under cold running water for at least 15 to 20 minutes. This is the only way to prevent permanent marks remaining on the skin.
The burned area can then be protected with sterile dressing material (the classic sterile gauze pads sold in envelopes).
If the wound is superficial and does not require medical evaluation, a soothing ointment (calendula or aloe-based gel) or a skin regenerating/replenishing ointment based on hyaluronic acid can be applied.
The latter can be used alone or in combination with an antibiotic in the case of suspected infection, again for local use.
Important – If in doubt, always consult your doctor to get as accurate a diagnosis as possible.
What else to do after a burn
If the burned area is covered by clothes, wet them with cold water and only then try to remove them. If they were anchored to the skin, leave them like that because, by trying to free the skin from the fabric, the skin itself could be removed.
IIf a blister appears, it could be a second degree burn. In this case, do not break it and contact the doctor.
Ensure optimal hygiene (e.g. do not cough on the wound) in order to prevent possible infection.
Ensure adequate water intake as there is a greater tendency to disperse fluid following a burn.
In the case of children or burns in the most sensitive areas (face, mouth, genitals, hands and feet), always contact the doctor.
What not to do after a burn
Following a burn, do not use home remedies (butter, oil, potato slices on the wound, etc.) which could aggravate the situation.
Also, do not apply ice in direct contact with the wound but wrapped in a clean cloth.
Burns and scalds: how to treat them and what medicines to pack
In order to best treat a minor burn or scald even when we are on holiday away from home, my advice is to keep the following medicines and medical devices in your suitcase:
- Sterile gauze compresses. They are normally contained in a box and divided into several packets that guarantee sterility;
- soothing ointment based on calendula , which can be reused, for example, in the case of insect bites, especially in children;
- ointment based on hyaluronic acid alone (connettivina) or in combination with an antibiotic (connettivina plus).
These are all medical devices and self-medication drugs that can be purchased without a prescription.
▶ You might also be interested in Check list of medicines in your suitcase.
Burns and scalds. How to treat them and which drugs to pack: the importance of prevention in children
Epidemiological data provide us with precise information on which and how many accidents occur in the home, and most burns to children occur in the kitchen by a mechanism of spilling boiling liquid from top to bottom.
So how can we prevent possible risk situations?
Never leave your child alone in the kitchen when there are pots on the stove. Also keep them on the innermost cooker, so that they are less within your child’s reach.
Also beware of tablecloths protruding from the table, with hot food on them.
Do not leave corrosive toxic substances, such as alcohol or petrol, within reach of the child.
It may be useful to know that water at a temperature of 60℃ causes a deep burn on the skin after only 5 seconds. Beware, therefore, of bath water in toddlers.
Sunburn, on the other hand, can be prevented by applying a good sunscreen before exposure to the sun, concentrating on the most sensitive areas (back of the foot, décolleté, etc.).
What to do if you prefer to be examined in hospital
Last recommendation: if you are undecided about the severity of the injury and are in doubt as to whether to go to the hospital for an examination, leave the burn as it is without applying ointments or, even worse, coloured antiseptics (e.g. iodine-based), which could prevent or delay an accurate assessment of the injury.