House fires often happen at night when everyone is asleep; especially if there is a smoker in the house. Smokers sometimes go to sleep with a lit cigarette. If you smoke, never smoke when you are sleepy. Always extinguish your cigarette in an ashtray, and make sure it is completely out. Empty ashtrays only after all the heat is gone from its contents. If a fire should start from a dropped cigarette, it may smolder for hours before a flame appears. Everyone could be asleep or unresponsive from smoke inhalation. No matter how a fire starts, whether from careless smoking or some other cause, serious burns can result.
Many 3rd degree burns happen at home, and sadly children are often the victims. Children playing with lighters can easily catch their clothes on fire. Paren’ts can prevent this kind of injury by keeping their matches and lighters out of the reach of their children. Flame resistant clothing can help prevent 3rd degree burns, because if the clothes don’t catch on fire there will be no contact with the heat source.
All 3rd degree burns are serious; when the area burned is confined to a small area it may be able to be treated in a doctors office or emergency room as an outpatient. When a major burn involves a larger percentage of the body’s surface it is a medical emergency. If you are exposed to flames the immediate response is to stop what you are doing and drop to the floor or ground and then roll to put out the flames. So many extensive 3rd degree burns have been incurred because the person on fire panicked and ran, rather than doing the basic stop, drop and roll life-saving method.
With thermal injury the person is exposed to heat or flame. If you are in a situation such as this, after the stop, drop and roll maneuver, remove jewelry and clothing from the area burned if possible; the exception to this is if the jewelry or clothing are stuck to the burned area. Don’t ever try to remove anything that is stuck to the injury. Let the professionals deal with anything that is stuck to the wound. 3rd degree burns penetrate the whole thickness of the skin, and may also involve the fatty and muscular layers. 3rd degree burns sometimes involve the skeletal tissue; however, some professionals classify burning of bone tissue as a 4th degree burn.
A state of shock often sets in after a 3rd degree burn. Hypovolemic shock is caused when there is massive fluid loss when a large area of the body is burned. The immediate treatment for shock is to lie the victim down and elevate the feet about 12 inches (30 cm) so that the feet and legs are above the heart. It is necessary to keep the blood flowing to the vital organs. Cover the victim with a blanket to prevent chilling.
Dial 911 immediately. Emergency workers will immediately insert an intravenous line to keep a vein open for any emergency drugs that need to be administered. The IV is to replenish the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance, but it is also a route for medications to be administered to treat the effects related to 3rd degree burns.
Everyone should have a working smoke detector in their home. Check it regularly. Have an escape plan in case of fire. Practice your escape route. Make sure everyone in the family understands what they are to do in case of fire. Practicing an escape route several times a year will help to avoid panic. Most often people die because they panic.