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Burns in the Bush

When you are out on the road with no help around it can make treatment of First Aid injuries very difficult. Sometimes we need to adapt our treatment to compensate for the scarce and distant medical availability. However, as first aiders we are capable of making a big difference and potentially save a life.


Burns are commonly mistreated and misunderstood. It is important to treat and manage burns correctly, as first aid management can dramatically benefit the prognosis. First aid treatment aims to stop the burning process, prevent infection, prevent fluid loss, treat shock and manage pain.

Burns are broken down into 4 main causes:

  • Wet – steam, hot water
  • Dry – fire, friction, ice, oil
  • Electrical – electrocution
  • Chemical – car battery acid, bleach, ammonia

Part of our treatment involves assessing the severity of the burn.

This assessment involves measuring the depth and extensiveness of the burn.

Burn depth can be classified into 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns:

1st degree burns - Do not break through the out layer of skin

2nd degree burns - generally blister, redness, swelling, break through outer layer of skin

3rd degree - break through all layers of skin, white leathery appearance 

To measure extensiveness of a burn we are able to use the rule of 9s to determine what portion of the body is burnt. 11 main sections of the body are worth 9% body area totalling 99%. This leave 1% for the groin area

Question: Calculate the percentage area for a burn to left lower arm and stomach area. Find the answer below.

The following burns are classified as severe and must receive urgent medical attention:

  • Burns greater than 10% in an adult
  • Children
  • Burns to the face
  • Hands, feet
  • Armpits
  • Genitals
  • 3rd degree burns
  • Chemical burns
  • Electrical burns
  • Inhalation burns


When cooking a piece of fish, you generally take it off the stove a little early as it continues to cook after you turn off the fire. Our skin acts similarly and we must stop the cooking process by removing heat from the area. This can be achieved by applying cool running water for at least 20 minutes. Now I know your wondering, where can I find running water in the middle of big red? Well hopefully you have access to a number of jerry cans of water, taking into consideration the safety of others.

Note: Chemical burns to the eyes must be flushed for 30 minutes

It is commonly asked if submerging a burn in water is sufficient. Although it provides temporary relief, the water temperature will increase rapidly. It is important to monitor this closely. Additionally, ice should never be placed on burns.

If access to water is not possible, the use of a Burn aid dressing is sufficient. This non-adherent dressing is impregnated with cooling hydrogel. This product reduces risk of infection, cools the burn and reduces fluid loss. It is best kept in the fridge and can be applied directly to the burn. The dressing can remain in place for 2 hours, another application is suitable if needed.

Note: Chemical burns must be flushed, burn dressings can not be applied.

Once cooling is complete, the area must be covered with a non-adherent dressing. This is to prevent possible infection.

Finally, as burns can cause fluid loss there is a risk of dehydration and possible shock. Covering the patient with an emergency shock blanket and keeping them flat can assist in treating shock.

Feel free to purchase a burn aid kit by clicking here.

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