The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Randy Charles
The Times 

Home Emergency Care Topic of the Month



March 28, 2019

When a medical emergency occurs the City of Waitsburg and its surrounding homes and farms face challenges, as do all rural areas, in EMS response times and transport times to an emergency room. This monthly column, written by former firefighter and paramedic Randy Charles, is aimed at providing area residents, who are faced with a medical or traumatic event, some kind of knowledge and skills that can be utilized to help a stricken individual while waiting for EMS.


There are various types and degrees of burns. They can be caused by heat (thermal), contact with chemicals, radiation or electricity. Burns can be superficial (minor sunburn) or more severe that can lead to infection, be disabling or result in death.

Remember when in doubt as to the severity of the burn call 911 or take the patient to a medical facility for further evaluation and treatment.


A 1ST degree burn involves the irritation of the outer most layer of the skin (Epidermis). It may result in redness, pain to the site of the burn and minor swelling (edema). A sunburn or minor exposure to a hot item can cause this type of burn. This burn results in redness and pain but no blisters.

A 2nd degree burn involves the first and second layer (Dermis) of the skin. This is often the result of exposure to higher temperatures or being exposed to the heat for a longer time. This burn will result in redness but can also cause blisters, swelling, white or splotchy skin and severe pain.

A 3rd degree burn reaches to the fat layer beneath the skin and potentially into deeper tissue and structures beneath the skin. This type of burn may look white and leathery and/or charred. Because of nerve damage this burn itself may not feel painful but the surrounding tissue that may have less severe burn will result in pain.


Call 911 when the burns:

Are caused by chemicals or electricity

Any 3rd degree burn when skin looks leathery, charred, has patches of black, brown or white

Burns that involve the hands, feet, groin, face buttocks major joint (elbows or knees)

Cover a large portion of the body

When the burn completely encircles ANY finger, toe arm or leg.

Are in the vicinity of the person’s nose, lips, mouth or tongue. Look for soot around and in their mouth and nose as well as obvious burn indicators. This is extremely dangerous as it can result in a person’s airway swelling shut.


Until emergency help arrives:

Ensure that you do not become the second victim, if the source of the burn is electricity make sure the source of the electricity is turned off before you approach the individual.

Remove the person from the source of the heat.

Cool the burn area with cool water or a cool moist bandage but DO NOT use cold water or ice.

Remove jewelry, belts, rings and other jewelry from the burn area and neck. Often a burn will result in swelling.

Loosely cover the burn area with a cool moist bandage or clean cloth ( DO NOT use fluffy/fuzzy type bandages).

Watch for signs of shock such as fainting, pale complexion or shallow breathing.

Keep the person dry and warm

Note: Most minor burns (1st degree) can be treated at home by cooling the burn (flushing it with cool water until the pain eases), applying a Aloe lotion or cream, loosely bandaging the burn and if needed taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Tylenol, etc.



Pop blisters (it can cause infection)

Apply cold water or ice

Apply butter, powder, grease or oily ointment (Aloe ointment is helpful for minor burns)

Delay in seeking emergency medical treatment



A burn that initially appears to be a 1st degree or 2nd degree burn can worsen hours or even days later. In other words a 1st degree burn that was initially only red in appearance can later develop blisters and a 2nd degree burn can worsen to a 3rd degree burn. If a burn appears to be worsening (or is becoming infected) it is time to get medical attention.


If the chemical is powder form, brush the substance off of the person’s body/clothes while protecting yourself from exposure.

If the chemical is liquid form, remove any contaminated clothing and flush the substance from the victims body, again while protecting yourself from exposure.

CALL 911


Ensure source of electricity is shut off prior to approaching the person. CALL 911. Monitor the person’s breathing and pulse, be prepared to render CPR if needed. If the person is breathing and appears stable, treat the burns as you would a thermal burn while awaiting EMS arrival.

CALL 911


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