Key Inconsistencies Across First Aid Guidelines Identified

Burn injuries are a common and serious public health concern. They are a preventable but potentially life-altering injury that can have considerable impact on a person’s health and quality of life.

High quality burn care starts with first aid immediately after injury. Applying cool running water to a burn reduces pain, can prevent the burn from becoming more serious, and lower the likelihood of needing a skin graft.

However, there is evidence to suggest that the public has a poor understanding of burns first aid and that there is often inconsistencies between the care recommendations in different guidelines.

Recently in Cureus, McLure and colleagues undertook a rapid review of current first aid guidelines to identify any critical variation, as well as any recent major changes in the literature that would warrant suggesting a change to the current recommendations.

A search was conducted to identify Australian/New Zealand and international first aid guidelines for burn care using guideline databases, and they compared key recommendations from each guideline relating to burns first aid.

Medical literature databases were also searched to identify existing and in-progress research relating to first aid for burns.

The authors found 18 first aid guidelines: seven were from Australia or New Zealand, while the remaining 11 guidelines came from overseas (e.g., American Burn Association, World Health Organization, etc.).

The majority of guidelines (11/18, including all Australian and New Zealand guidelines) recommended treating burn injuries with cool running water for at least 20 minutes.

Few guidelines made recommendations of when burns should be referred for specialised treatment.

This rapid review identified key variation between first aid guidelines for burns that would benefit from the development of an international consensus on management.

Although many of the international guidelines recommended the application of cool running water to treat burns, there was variation in how long the treatment should be applied (i.e., between 5 and 20 minutes).

There was no new evidence that would suggest changing the recommended treatment for burns. Rather, the recommended treatment should remain as 20 minutes cool running water within three hours of injury.

Read the full paper in Cureus titled A Rapid Review of Burns First Aid Guidelines: Is There Consistency Across International Guidelines? for free here.

Please contact corresponding author Dr Lincoln Tracy (lincoln[dot]tracy[at]monash[dot]edu) if you are unable to access the article.