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by the NFCC


Burns and scalds

Hazard Knowledge

A burn is caused by dry heat, for example by an iron or a fire. A scald is caused by something wet, for example by hot water or steam. Burns to the skin can be very painful and may result in:

  • Red or peeling skin
  • Blisters
  • Swelling
  • White or charred skin

The amount of pain is not always related to how serious the burn is. Even a very serious burn may be relatively painless.

If a casualty has airway burns, signs or symptoms may include:

  • A harsh, vibrating noise when breathing, caused by obstruction of the windpipe or larynx
  • Burns or soot to the face, lips, mouth, pharynx or nasal passages
  • Decreased level of consciousness, or signs of confusion, due to hypoxia

Burns to the skin can be caused by:

  • Heat or fire
  • Extreme cold
  • Electricity
  • Chemicals
  • Radiation:
    • Thermal
    • Ultraviolet light
    • Ionising radiation
    • Very high radio frequency energy

Airway burns can be caused by:

  • Inhalation of steam or aerosolised chemicals
  • Aspiration of scalding liquids
  • Explosions
  • Flammable gases under pressure

If burns are not dealt with quickly, a casualty may experience further trauma and an increased risk of infection, shock or death.