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A burn bandage has special properties designed to protect a burn victim from infection and fluid loss. Depending on the location and extent of the burn, a burn bandage might be anything from a small gauze pad to a stocking-like garment designed to fit around the body. The bandages are used to hold injured limbs in the proper position and keep the patient as comfortable as possible.
Burns are described as first-, second-, or third-degree burns. First- and second-degree burns cover a small area and only penetrate the first or second layer of the skin. These burns usually can be treated at home and covered with a sterile gauze bandage.
One important function of a burn bandage is to prevent further damage. Bandaging materials that have loose fibers or fluffy, cottony filler that might stick to the wound cannot be used. Wet compresses can be used to provide pain relief on small burns. A burn bandage that is a foam pad soaked with a special moisturizing gel typically is included in special burn first-aid kits. These pads are not adhesive and need to be covered with sterile, gauze-stretch bandages and then secured with adhesive tape.
Third-degree burns are the kind that cover large areas of the body or deeply penetrate the skin. Many hospitals have burn centers to provide specialized care for severe burns. Sometimes a type of burn bandage is used that is impregnated with ionized silver to protect the wound from infection. Silver is an antimicrobial agent, which means that it is an effective treatment against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Bandages soaked in solutions of silver have been used to treat burns for more than 100 years.
A burn bandage for more severe burns needs to provide compression to prevent swelling, as well as to form a barrier against infection. Keeping pressure on the burn area can reduce the amount of scarring. A compression burn bandage can be found to fit any body part. For example, tubing is available in different widths to slide over fingers, toes, or arms; burn gloves can be used to bandage the entire hand; stocking-like garments can be used to cover the torso. These are often used in addition to the more conventional square pads and rolls of bandaging.
Burn first-aid kits and simple burn bandages typically are available anywhere that first-aid supplies are sold. The specialized compression bandages usually are available only through medical supply stores. These special bandages typically should be used only with a doctor’s recommendation and instructions.