Flash burns commonly associated with explosions, expert says

The burns suffered by victims of the Parsons Green terror attack will depend on how close they were to the explosion, an expert has said.

Isobel Kearl, national training officer for St John Ambulance, said flash burns are caused by intense heat or light or both.

She said the severity of the burn depends on proximity to the explosion as well as other factors.

"It depends on how long the flash was and how hot it was," she said.

"It's to do with heat and light - the intense light creates heat and that can burn.

"The flash is usually over very quickly but the burn can last longer.

"But it's usually superficial, with people experiencing red skin and pain, a bit like sunburn.

"However, a flash burn can also cause blisters.

"We usually say flash burns are associated with explosions or things like welding."

Ms Kearl said the burns are treated in the same way as other burns - with paramedics acting quickly to cool them down.

"In the same way as with any kind of burn, you want to cool them down," she said.

"If the flash burn is on the face you want to keep the person breathing, but you want to cool them down, either with cold running water or by constantly changing wet cloths.

"There's also first aid burns masks that lay over the face.

"You need to keep cooling the burn while it hurts, and for a minimum of 10 minutes.

"You also need to get jewellery off because the area can swell and cause more pain."

She said depending on the severity of blistering and the type of after-care, people may require skin grafts, but this is rare.

"Paramedics are very quick to respond to these types of burns, this is all basic first aid," she added.

Earlier, the Metropolitan Police's assistant commissioner, Mark Rowley, said the explosion was caused by an "improvised explosive device".

Most of the casualties suffered "flash burns", he said.


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