Burn Treatment

This page will be expanded and refined over time. this is the current draft.
In 2006, we took a poll of the major burn treatment centers in the US, gave them a scenario of a desert raver, and asked what should be done to treat various wounds.

(Specifically, the “desert raver” scenario involved someone out of cell range, and probably more than an hour away from emergency evac or hospitalization. Many hospitals, particularly those on the east coast had trouble believing such a situation could exist, however, this is an incredibly common situation in the Californian deserts and mountains.)

Some sources took a little convincing to get over the knee-jerk reaction of saying take them to an emergency ward but most came around once the situation was fully explained. That said, the following suggestions are not intended as an alternative to proper medical care, but rather a supplement when 1st world medicine may not be readily available.

  • Grossman Burn Center, Van Nuys CA. – known as one of the best burn units without an extravagant budget.
  • Arizona Burn Center
  • Burn Center at Saint Barnabas
  • International Society for Burn Injuries
  • University of Utah Health Services Center

The Ft Sam Houston Military Burn Ward, and Bethesda Naval Hospital were also contacted but would not reply.

The short and long of the information from these units breaks down like this:

  • get the victim away from heat/burning/fire
  • cool the burn as quickly as possible using cool water, not ice.
  • remove clothing, accessories, and jewelry from area
  • do not apply anything greasy or sticky (like butter, ointments, honey, silvadene, etc)
  • For small first and second degree burns, keep cool for about 15mins, low pressure water is preferred.
  • All burns that cross joints count as one degree higher.
  • Large burns, burns on children or any burns 3rd degree or more should go directly to a hospital.


A note on Silvadene (Silver Sulfadiazine):
Silvadene is a sulfa drug, approximately 1 in 1000 people have allergies to sulfa drugs that can result (in serious cases) in death from simple exposure. Since sulfa drugs aren’t regularly used, it’s possible that someone could have an allergy and not know it well into adulthood. If silvadene were put on an open wound of someone with a hidden allergy, swift and professional medical treatment would be necessary.  Silvadene is not indicated for first aid use on burns. It has a white petrolatum base that can trap heat and increase the burn severity. It is indicated for antibacterial treatment of open burns after they have cooled off, and ”while under a physicians care”. However that, too, could be changing as a recent meta study showed Silvadene to be less effective than placebo.