Candles, fairy lights and hot food: How to treat festive burns

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With decorative candles, fairy lights, cooking and baking, the risk of burning seems always present during the festive period. In case you need advice on treating burns this Christmas, here are some NHS tips on first aid as well as when to go to the hospital.

Difference between burns and scalds

A burn is caused by dry heat, so anything from Christmas baking to fire could pose risk.

A scald is caused by wet heat like hot water or steam, this one can be more of a risk during cooking.

Even though the causes are slightly different, both can be treated the same way.

First aid rules

The first thing to do when you burn yourself is to stop the process as soon as possible, the NHS reports.

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So, move yourself or the person affected away from the source of heat.

In case you’re wearing any clothes or jewellery near the burn or scald, remove this but be careful not to remove anything that’s stuck to the burnt skin.

This forceful practice could cause even more damage.

As soon as possible after you get burnt, put the area under cool or lukewarm water for about 20 minutes.

The NHS says “never” to use ice, iced water, creams and greasy substances like butter.

You can also cover the affected area with cling film. If your hand got burned, you might want to use a clean clear plastic bag instead.

If the affected area is located on your face or eyes, the NHS advises to sit upright as much as possible. Lying down can lead to swelling.

If you get burned on a large area, you might be at risk of hypothermia, body temperature dropping below 35C.

In that case, you need to keep yourself warm by using a blanket or extra clothing. However, you should avoid putting the blanket or clothes on the affected spot.

If your pain is very unpleasant, you might want to opt for painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Remember to check the patient information leaflet for instructions and any important information, the NHS reminds.

Fairy lights and electrical burns

Although they might not look serious, they can be very “damaging”. The NHS advises for anyone with electrical burns to get “immediate” medical help at an A&E department.

When using fairy lights, it’s important to change blown bulbs to avoid any hazards, according to Fire Protection Online. When you’re changing these, make sure to turn the power off.

When to go to hospital?

After you’ve followed all of the first aid rules, you need to decide whether your burn or scald needs any other medical treatment.

You should visit the A&E if you have:

  • Large or deep burns bigger than the affected person’s hand
  • Burns of any size that cause white or charred skin
  • Burns on the face, hands, arms, feet, legs or genitals that cause blisters
  • Chemical and electrical burns.

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