Ouch, that hurts! Better tend to that

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 September, 2011, 12:00am


It's Friday night, and you're at home preparing a meal for that special someone. The recipe tells you to put the pasta in a pan, add a pinch of salt and stir frequently while adding water. You've already made a nice thick sauce, and your salad is looking like something straight out of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's kitchen.

The next step is to strain the pasta in the sink and allow it to cool. But multi-tasking is not your strong point. You should have listened to your mother - cooking and texting don't mix. Instead of pouring the pasta into the strainer, you dump half of it on your wrist and hand. It's a painful mistake and you've burned yourself badly.

What to do

You need to make sure that the source of your burns - the pot of scalding water - is safely out of reach to prevent further injuries.

Run water over the affected area for 10 minutes. Then place a piece of plastic cling wrap around the wound. It could become infected so it is important to cover the wound.

Dr Axel Siu Yuet-chung, the First Aid and Accident and Emergency Department Consultant for Hong Kong St John Ambulance Association, offers a guide to assessing burns. The size and depth of a wound is crucial. Measure the size of the injury in proportion to your hand. An open palm - measured diagonally - equates to about 1 per cent of your overall skin.

If you sustain burns greater than 5 per cent (or five open palms), then it is considered severe. Anything of that size or larger you should show to a doctor at once.

Next you need to assess the depth of the wound. There are three degrees of burn injuries:

1. First degree

This means that only the upper layer of skin is affected. This is a superficial burn, similar to sunburn.

2. Second degree

Such burns are slightly more severe and will cause more pain.

There may be blisters on the skin. You should not scratch them or try to remove their outer layers as this can lead to infection. The skin provides a natural protective layer that shouldn't be removed.

3. Third degree

These burns destroy nerve endings, resulting in the skin turning a blackish-grey. Such burns should be treated by a doctor immediately.

If possible, put your arm in a sling to stabilise the affected area, and don't move your hand.

Steps to help a burn victim

1 Remove the source of the burn injury.

2 Run water over the affected area for 10 minutes.

3 Place a plastic cling wrap around the wound.

4 Stabilise the area by wearing a sling, where necessary.

5 If the burns are serious, seek medical advice or call emergency services on 999.

Kenneth Chu Wai-shing, first aid lecturer at Hong Kong St John Ambulance, provided information for the article. Hong Kong St John Ambulance offers a wide range of first-aid training courses. Visit www.stjohn.org.hk, or call 2524 4888