Thermal burns: Assessment and acute management in the general practice setting

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Background Appropriate care of minor burns is key if complications, leading to the need for surgical intervention and increased likelihood of poor outcomes, are to be avoided. Objective This article provides guidance to support the appropriate management of thermal burns in the general practice setting. Discussion Correct initial assessment of the patient with a thermal burn will determine whether they can be managed at home or require burns unit care, hospital admission for analgesia or specialist outpatient review. Factors that may impact on healing include the size, depth and location of the wound; the presence of oedema and blisters; as well as the patient's social circumstances, age and health status. First aid with cool running water should be applied to the burn for at least 20 minutes. Cooling and the application of an occlusive dressing will minimise the pain associated with partial thickness burns. Oral analgesics or short term hospital admission for adequate pain control may be necessary. Definitive management of minor burns involves dressings, rest, elevation and oedema control, and regular review as the burn wound evolves and heals. Referral should be considered for any burn wound that appears unlikely to heal within 14 days postinjury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-375
Number of pages4
JournalAustralian Family Physician
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Burns/diagnosis
  • Burns/therapy
  • Dressings

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