Can You Perform CPR on a Burn Victim?

Can you preform CPR on a burn victim?

No one is immune to thermal injury – children can easily come into contact with hot liquids, while adults are more susceptible to fire, gasses, and work-related burning materials.

You may be asking yourself – can you perform CPR on a burn victim? The short answer is yes – arrhythmias and heart failures often occur due to severe burning and other thermal injuries. That’s why AED, rescue breathing, and chest compressions can sometimes be crucial for saving the burn victim’s life.

In this article, we’ll elaborate on the connection between injuries sustained from burning and the CPR procedure.

Burn Injuries: Symptoms, Cases, and CPR Emergencies

Firstly, we must define the types of burn injuries. We know about three types of burn injuries depending on the severity and life-threatening implications. Doctors classify burns as first, second, and third-degree.

First-degree, or superficial burn, is injury to the outer layer of the skin, also called the epidermis. However, the second-degree burn is called a “partial thickness burn”. It damages the dermis and can result in a swollen, hot, and painful skin area.

Nonetheless, the scariest burn injuries are third-degree injuries. Doctors call these “full-thickness injuries”. These burns destroy both the epidermis and dermis and can damage the muscles and bones. It’s usually in emergencies like these when you’d have to perform CPR on the burn victim. The third-degree burns leave white scalds and are life-threatening.

Besides burns that occur in the home, there is also the risk of workplace- and working-material-related burns. For example, people doing physical labor are prone to thermal, radiation, chemical, and electrical burns. Most of these emergencies require a CPR procedure or an AED.

The first-aid CPR procedure can be life-saving in such moments. Multiple studies suggest that the performance of CPR on a burn victim can increase survival chances and result in undisturbed neurological future functions. However, we must know how to define the situation when we should avoid performing CPR on burn victims.

Type of Burns & CPR Application

We shouldn’t perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on every burn victim. In most cases, first and second-degree burns don’t require a CPR procedure. You may ask yourself why? The obvious reason is that these burns can’t disrupt blood circulation, the heart’s rhythm, or the pulmonary system.

However, even in these cases, the patient can lose consciousness or suffer a mild heart attack. If you find yourself in this kind of emergency, you’d have to analyze the heart’s rhythm and victim and see if CPR is necessary.

In major burn emergencies, you’d have to proceed to the CPR procedure immediately. If you happen to have an AED, you’d have to use it to determine the heart rhythm. The Automated External Defibrillator will tell you whether there’s some life-threatening arrhythmia like ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.

Another problem arises here: how do you give CPR to various burn victims depending on the age, type of injury, and severity of the wounds? Thankfully, treating patients that sustained chemical, thermal, electrical, or any other severe wounds is very similar.

CPR & Burns: The Correct Application

Now, the question isn’t “can you perform CPR on a burn victim”? The question is how to correctly perform CPR on a burn victim before the emergency response services arrive.

Following are different burn emergencies when you’d have to perform CPR as a layperson and a professional medical worker:

Chemical Burns

Treating a patient that has suffered a cardiac arrest or a life-threatening arrhythmia is crucial when major chemical burns are sustained. We can explain the process in a few simple steps:

      • Remove the contaminated clothing

      • Apply a neutralizing substance or rinse the area with water for 15-20 minutes

      • Analyze whether the patient is breathing and has a pulse

      • Perform CPR if necessary.

    The CPR you should perform for severe chemical burns when the patient loses consciousness – and any other major burn type – is the high-quality CPR procedure. You’d have to give 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute and give two artificial breaths every 30 compressions. Nevertheless, before you do all of this, you’d have to call 991.

    Thermal Burns and Injuries

    Thermal burns are the most frequent burn injuries that can cause loss of consciousness and heart failure. Thermal burns can also damage the airway and interrupt the breathing, causing irregular blood circulation and heart rhythm.

    However, CPR and AED treatment become necessary when flames damage the skin, bones, muscles, and cardiovascular system. The proper heart rhythm and breathing can be also affected by smoke inhalation.

    Following is a step-by-step guide on how to react before giving CPR on a thermal burn victim:

        • Call 991 immediately

        • Clear the chest of all unnecessary clothes and other materials

        • See if there’s any jewelry or dressings in case you’d have to provide automated external defibrillation and prevent tightness if the swelling continues to increase

        • Make sure the person is unconscious and check for a pulse

        • If there’s no breathing and no pulse for 10 seconds, you should proceed to automated external defibrillation and CPR

        • If the defibrillator tells you not to administer shocks, then proceed only to high-quality CPR before the emergency response arrives.

      Nonetheless, you’d have to perform CPR on the burned victim based on their age and condition. For instance, if the burned victim is a child or infant, you’d have to perform the CPR procedure accordingly.

      Electrical Burns

      Electrical burns are also life-threatening and can cause cardiac arrest or disrupt the heart’s rhythm. There are many cases where electrical shocks and burns cause arrhythmia, including ventricular defibrillation.

      Electric burns make up 4% to 5% of all burns treated with medical intervention. That’s why it’s essential to know how to react and perform CPR on an electric burn victim.

      What follows is a simple guide on how you should react in such emergencies outside the hospital:

          • Carefully inspect the heart rhythm, pulse, and breathing

          • Make sure the electric burn victim is disconnected from the source of electrocution

          • Make sure there aren’t any bone fractures because of the severe muscle contractions as a reaction to the electric shock

          • If necessary, proceed to perform CPR and call for emergency transport.

        An Automated External Defibrillator is also effective in treating electrical burn victims. It’s quite natural because the electric shock disrupts the proper heart rhythm, and the AED sends electrical shocks to restore it.

        CPR Certification: Why It’s Important For Treating Burn Victims

        The CPR certification courses will answer any of your questions related to performing CPR on a burn victim and how and when to do it.

        Across the United States, numerous licensed and credible training centers provide these CPR certification courses with various competence levels. These centers are usually certified by credible organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Red Cross.

        For instance, if you or your organization enroll in CPR certification courses, you’ll learn about the various burn emergencies, how to assess the severity of the injuries, and how to correctly perform CPR. You’ll also be taught prevention techniques and measures to avoid sustaining any degree of burn.

        The CPR certification courses are also valuable because they can teach you the anatomy basics of the skin and the muscles. Some CPR courses will guide you through the fundamentals, like the distinction between the dermis vs. the epidermis, while others will go deeper into the subject – how to stop, cover, and cool the burns.

        There are CPR certification courses for firefighters, emergency services, police forces, medical workers, babysitters, etc. Each of these workplace-customized courses will teach you how to prevent some burn injuries that might result in cardiac arrest or life-threatening arrhythmia.

        Furthermore, the CPR certification courses will provide insight into how to treat burn victims who are adults, children, or elderly. You’ll also learn when to give hands-only CPR to increase the survival rate before the emergency services come.

        Final Thoughts

        Everybody knows that burns cause cardiodynamic derangements, but even milder burns can cause severe cardiovascular dysfunction, as scientists say. These injuries can also cause dangerous arrhythmia that can result in cardiac arrest.

        That’s why knowing the right way to assess the emergency and decide if CPR or AED is necessary is crucial for increasing the survival rates of burn victims. There are multiple burn types, such as chemical, thermal, radiation, and electrical. Nonetheless, the CPR methodology stays the same for all of them – it only changes depending on the demographic you’re helping.

        The CPR certification courses can provide you with such knowledge and make you capable of saving a severe burn victim.