Can you perform CPR on a burn victim?

Can you perform CPR on a burn victim?

You might be wondering if you can perform CPR on a burn victim, we’ll give you the facts here. Skin burns, no matter their severity, are serious injuries and need prompt attention.  Treatment depends on the type of burn; however, first aid can help prevent a situation from getting worse while waiting for medical assistance. 

Learning to provide first-aid burn treatment can minimize complications, and certain critical situations may even require CPR assistance. This article will give insight into first-aid burn treatment and explore the question, “Can you perform CPR on a burn victim?” to find the answer to whether or not you need to employ this technique as part of patient recovery. However, taking a CPR class is a good place to start. 

Survival Rates in Burn Victims and CPR

Studies on burn victims are, unfortunately, hard to come by; however, the American Burn Association provides valuable insight into guidelines and practices for treating burn patients

According to one study, adults with more than 60% of their total body area burnt and minors with more than 40% total body area burnt are at high risk for mortality. This is crucial as determining the relation between burn size and survival rate can help medical staff pay more attention and provide appropriate care to burn victims. 

One older study, published in the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation, showed that providing CPR to burn victims in any form, meaning chest compressions, rescue breathing, or AED, can increase their chances of survival. Other factors that determined the chances of survival included rapid transport to the hospital, age, and, in cases when it happened, the duration of the cardiac arrest. 

Usual First Aid Treatments for Burns Aside From CPR

Providing first-aid and CPR treatment to burn victims follows some general principles that are worth keeping in mind. The overall objective is to keep the victim alive. For this to be done, an individual must learn how to stop the situation from getting worse. 

Here is what’s most important when treating burns: 

  • Identify the burn injury and remove any clothing that might be covering the area. Remove portions of clothing that might stick to the wound. 
  • Use water and flood the area surrounding the victim to prevent further burs and relieve pain.
  • If possible, cover the burned area with a sterile cloth. 
  • Keep any foreign materials, as well as the victim’s hands, away from the wound to prevent infections. 
  • Remove any jewelry or dressing if the swelling increases. 
  • Tend to the pain and monitor the victim carefully. 
  • Reach out to an emergency response team in case of serious burns. 

If the victim is unconscious, rescuers must tend to safety measures. As part of first aid training, individuals learn how to position the body of an unconscious person so that the airway is not blocked. The unconscious victim should be carefully monitored and secured until they can be transferred to the hospital. 

Classification of Burns 

CPR and first aid practitioners should be familiar with the classification system of burn marks that healthcare professionals go by. Depending on the severity of the burn, you can differentiate between 3 burn degrees.

First-Degree Burns 

These affect the epidermis, known as the top layer of the skin. First-degree burns are mild and marked by redness and an uncomfortable feeling but rarely blisters. 

Second-Degree Burns 

Both the upper and lower layers of the skin are affected by these burns. Typically these injuries include red, swollen areas accompanied by blisters. 

Third-Degree Burns

All skin layers are affected by third-degree burns, and damage to hair follicles and sweat glands is possible. The skin may appear leathery and can be red, white, or black. Nerve endings may also be damaged, and victims might not feel direct pain but can experience pain from areas nearby. 

Types of First Aid Depending on the Burns

There are several kinds of burns that can result from various actions, such as burns emerging from electrical shocks or chemical reactions. Further down, we elaborate on each and the first aid that can be given in those cases.

First Aid for Blisters 

Blisters are often the result of a thermal injury, such as close contact with flames. They occur when the upper layers of the skin are damaged, and they leak fluid, known as serum. These bubbles must never be broken as the skin underneath is burned and susceptible to infections. 

Blisters do not require much attention unless they are located in an area where they may potentially break. In this case, the blister can be covered with a non-adhesive bandage that extends beyond its edges. 

First Aid for Chemical Burns 

Unlike blisters, chemical burns require additional medical treatment and can appear slower than other types of burns. The treatment for chemical burns goes as followed: 

  • Remove any clothing around the area and apply a neutralizing solution (one recommended by a doctor).
  • For burns caused by dry chemical powder, it is essential that you first clear the area of any powder traces and then apply generous amounts of water. 
  • The procedure for other chemicals is to rinse the area with water for around 15 minutes. 

In the case of chemical burns to the eyes, the victim must lie down. Using your fingers, open the eye, and in the inner corner, pour water until it flows around the entire eye. Then cover the eyes using moistened gauze and seek assistance from a professional. 

First Aid for Electrical Burns 

Electrical burns usually call upon medical interventions as they are more severe as a result of the electrical shock. To provide help in these situations, here are some things you need to know:

  • Careful monitoring is required in cases of electrical burns, as cardiac arrest and respiratory blockages are very likely. 
  • As a result of the muscle contractions caused by the electrical shock, bone fractures are also possible. 
  • Often, brown, copper trail marks are visible due to the high-voltage shock. These mustn’t be mistaken for additional injuries.
  • Before the rescue team provides medical assistance, the victim must be disconnected from the source. 

First Aid for Radiation Burns 

Radiation cannot be simply detected by humans, so when responding to radiation burns, first rescuers must ensure that the area is free of radiation by using different devices. This is why in this emergency, usually the emergency personnel is the only one that can help. 

CPR as Treatment to Burn Victims

The type of burn dictates the first-aid approach; however, the greater the area of the burn, the greater the damage. This results in the skin’s inability to maintain proper body temperature. Additionally, deeper burns are at greater risk of infection, which is why first-aid burn treatment must be performed by certified, skilled individuals. 

As studies show, burn victims may often go into cardiac arrest as a result of their injuries, so providing CPR is a practice that can help revive victims and increase their chance of survival. Nonetheless, CPR assistance is not always effective, as even prolonged CPR might not result in spontaneous circulation. Usually, burn victims who experience multiple cardiac arrests are very unlikely to pull through. 

Serious burns, which are mostly the product of thermal injuries, electrical shock, or radiation, cause victims to fall into a state of shock and result in respiratory failure. Smoke inhalation can also contribute to problems with breathing and require CPR assistance. Severe burns are life-threatening, and if immediate assistance is not provided, they may easily result in death. 

Understanding If You Can Perform CPR on a Burn Victim

Although not common, CPR can be performed on a burn victim. However, it depends from case to case and the degree of the burns.

Severe burns are those that reach through all layers of the skin and are known to have the most adverse consequences. Due to pain or smoke inhalation, burn victims may suffer breathing disruptions which can result in cardiac arrest.

Timely administration of CPR practices can help increase the chances of survival and, in combination with instant medical care, may save a person’s life.

Being able to distinguish and tend to the type of burns in question can minimize further complications and help you provide effective first-aid burn treatment. As we mentioned throughout the article, assistance doesn’t end here, as monitoring the victim’s situation until an emergency team comes to the rescue is essential.