First Aid for Burns

With Bonfire Night just around the corner it’s the time of year for crackling fires, fizzing sparklers and spectacular fireworks displays. Unfortunately it’s also the time when over-enthusiasm or a momentary lapse in concentration around the fire can lead to serious injury. Here are our top tips for enjoying an incident-free bonfire night.

Bonfire Night Safety

  • Learn to lay and light a bonfire without using accelerants such as petrol and paraffin. When volatile fuels are poured onto a fire there’s a risk of a flashback into the container, with the fire burning up the vapour trail towards your hand. Building your fire using natural tinder removes this risk, plus you earn extra bushcraft points for not cheating!
  • Keep spectators a safe distance away from the fire. Most people are fascinated by the flickering tongues of flame and many of us could easily spend hours gazing into the hypnotic depths of a fire. With larger bonfires however the flames can reach out surprisingly far from the core of the fire, so make sure you set up a suitable ‘safe zone’ some distance away.
  • Promote safe handling of sparklers! Children and adults alike love to watch the dancing stars on the end of a sparkler but it’s easy to forget that they can reach temperatures as high as 2000 degrees celsius! Always supervise children handling sparklers and make them safer still by using gardening gloves and ensuring they are held well away from the body and anybody else. Even when the sparkler has gone out, the end can remain hot for some time so ensure they are disposed of sensibly in a bucket of water.
  • We all hate that dud firework that fails to go off, but approaching it ‘just to check’ ends in disaster for too many people. Fireworks that don’t ignite properly should be left well alone as they can still explode.

Burns on Bonfire Night

First aid treatment for burns is really quite simple; here are the steps to take if somebody is injured by the fire or fireworks.

First steps:

  • First, make sure the area is safe to approach – ensure you’re not going to be harmed by going to help the injured person – or get them to move towards you.
  • Make sure that there are no more serious injuries to deal with first, and then apply cool running water to the burnt area for at least 20 minutes and up to 30 minutes if required to adequately cool the burn.
  • Do not attempt to peel away clothing that is stuck to the burnt skin, but clothing can be cut away in order to properly assess the burn.
  • If the burn affects a limb, remove any watches, rings or other jewellery in order to reduce the risk of problems if the limb becomes swollen.
  • For any burn other than minor reddening of the skin, consider covering the injured area with cling film or a non-adherent dressing. Do not wrap anything tightly around a limb as this could cause problems if swelling occurs.

What about burn gels?

The evidence suggests that burn gels can be helpful in reducing the pain of a superficial burn after it has been appropriately cooled with water. If you don’t have access to water a burn gel would be better than nothing, but the best first aid is to use water to begin with. Be cautious with burn gels on deeper burns as the gel can become a sticky residue that will need to be cleaned out from the wound in hospital.

Do I need A+E?

  • Medical attention should be sought for any burn to the hands, feet, face or neck area and any burn that goes right around an arm or leg.
  • You should also seek medical advice for large superficial burns, blistered burns covering more than the area of the casualty’s hand and any deep burn that has gone through several layers of tissue.
  • Medical advice should also be sought for burns to children.

Staying Safe on Bonfire Night

Some of the best firework experiences can be had by attending an organised display; not only can you relax in the knowledge that somebody else is taking care of the dangerous bits, but you’re likely to see a more spectacular display made up of pyrotechnics beyond most peoples’ budgets!

If you do hold your own bonfire or fireworks show though, have fun and stay safe this November!