How to Treat Burns

(This advice is a reproduction of a forum post by Simon Chainey. Simon is an experienced professional fire performer and a professional fire man, i.e. the type that responds to emergency calls. Check out his performance website.)

I thought I would share some knowledge with you all regarding burns and what is the best action to take.

I know we all love fire but it does have a darkside and it needs to be respected.

In the unfortunate event that your clothes catch fire and you find that you are now the fire show! Remember three things:




If you stay stood upright the flames will climb your clothes and burn your face. To extinguish someone who is on fire smoother them with a fire blanket or a damp towel or item of non-synthetic clothing (don’t beat them with it, this will fan the flames).

If the clothes are now stuck to the skin do not attempt to remove them, this needs to be done at hospital, also be aware that internal organs can suffer from burns through inhalation, which could in turn lead to shock, seek medical attention immediately.

So what types of burns are there?

If someone suffers a burn stop all spinning immediately and tend to the injured person. Make sure they are safely away from the performance area before any fire spinning continues.

Note: do not cover any type of burn with a soft fluffy dressing. These will stick to the burn and make things worse. If in doubt use cling film as this doesn’t stick, protects the wound from infection and allows professionals to see the wound.

1st Degree: least serious, reddening of skin. Can only be a problem if large areas of skin are affected i.e. casualty goes into shock (see symptoms of shock below).

TREATMENT: place affected area in cold (preferably running) water for a minimum of 10 minutes... if you still feel warmth under the skin it means it is still cooking so place the affected area back into the water until the pain has completely gone.

2nd Degree: Ok, now we’ve stepped up a gear, this is where the skin blisters or worse still you lose the first few layers of skin.

If you have a 1st degree burn and don’t leave it in water long enough, and you let it carry on cooking under the skin it can easily turn into a 2nd degree burn. If you have more than 1% of skin affected (1% being the size of your palm) you should seek medical advice.

Whatever you do don’t burst the blister this contains the blood’s plasma, losing enough of this can be fatal!

TREATMENT: Same as 1st degree. Also buy yourself some pure Aloe Vera gel and rub that on after cooling or better still some hydrated water packs (specialist burns dressings) this will sort it right out and promotes skin growth. This is what we whack on people at work... it really does work wonders. Treat patient for shock.

3rd Degree: Now hopefully no one will experience this, this is very, very serious. The skin is burnt away completely down to fatty tissue. The wound will look white and will weep plasma (clear liquid) and you normally feel little pain as you’ve burnt away the nerve endings. Casualties often seem ok and then crash rapidly, often going into major shock. Anything over 30% third degree burns and you’re in grave danger.

TREATMENT: seek medical attention immediately (999), even for a small third degree burn, and apply water to help cool burn. Be aware that if a large area of skin is affected too much water will cool the body’s temperature down. Do not remove clothing that is stuck to skin. Cover burn with cling film. This will help against infection. Treat patient for shock.

SHOCK: shock should be taken seriously. This is where the body tries to protect itself by systematically shutting itself down; it does this by diverting blood to the major organs.

Signs and symptoms: Pale looking skin (blood diverted to major organs) cold clammy skin, rapid weak pulse, abnormal behaviour, nausea, sometimes seem to act drunk.

TREATMENT: sit them down before they fall down, keep them warm, reassure them and just monitor their pulse (average pulse 60 -90 beats per min).