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First Aid


An emergencies overview of burn injury treatment and hazards identification specific to boating.


Burn injuries can be serious, especially on a vessel or at a remote location where immediate treatment and patient management can be slow to access.

Burn injuries on boats are common, especially when dealing with hot liquids on a moving vessel.

Boat engines are another source of severe burns, most notably from hot ejected water when checking the causes of overheating engines. Always take extreme caution around boat engines.

First‐Degree Burns

First-degree burns involve the outermost layer of skin such as is commonly associated with sunburn or a minor hot-water burn.

The skin is usually still intact but may appear red, very warm, or hot to touch and painful. There may also be small blisters and swelling in and around the area of injury.

Second‐Degree Burns

Second-degree burns affect the second layer of skin (dermis).

This burn usually has the following characteristics: very red, blister formation, extremely painful and a fair amount of swelling.

In general, if a second-degree burn is smaller than 2‐3 inches (7 centimetres), it may be treated as a minor burn. More in-depth medical attention is needed if the area burned is more extensive than this or involves functional parts of the body such as feet, face, eyes, ears, groin or located over larger joints.

Notify emergency services and arrange to take the person to the nearest emergency room, family doctor or minor emergency clinic to evaluate the burn. Failure to do so may result in permanent disfigurement or loss of function.

Initial first‐aid treatment for burns includes the following:


  • Immediately stop the burning process: cool the burn with running cool (not cold) water for 20 minutes. But do not use ice, as this may cause further skin damage. If the victim starts to shiver, stop the cooling process.
  • Remove all jewellery, watches, rings, and clothing around the burned area as soon as possible.
  • Administer an over‐the‐counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain control. Follow the directions on the label. Consult a physician or health care provider if the pain is not relieved.
  • Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage or clean cloth. Wrap the burned area loosely to avoid putting too much pressure on the burn tissue.
  • Seek medical attention if there is a persistent fever not relieved by medication or redness that may extend beyond the border of the burn, or, pain is not controlled by ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • If the patient exhibits any signs and symptoms of shock, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (electrolyte-containing solutions such as gator aid).

Later treatment

  • Minor burns will usually heal without further treatment.
  • For minor area burns, apply soothing antibacterial lotions to the burned area to help relieve the discomfort and facilitate healing.


  • Do not apply ice – this may cause further damage to the skin.
  • Do not use any butter, ointments, or other home remedies on the burn. Such substances may trap the tissue's heat and make the burn worse.
  • Do not break any blisters.
  • Do not delay seeking medical attention if the burn is larger than the size of the victim’s palm.

Additional Resources