More than 2 million people suffer burns each year. Of these, 250,000 burns are severe enough to require hospitalization of the victims.

A great deal of controversy exists over the best first aid for burn victims. Some of the confusion comes from practices founded many years ago.Fallacy No. 1: Large burned areas should be cooled to minimize swelling and reduce pain.

Fact: Although cool water should be applied to minor burns, since it can soothe and reduce pain, cool or cold water should not be used for large burned areas. Once the burning process has been stopped, the burned victim's body heat must be conserved, since hypothermia may be induced.

Fallacy No. 2: Don't examine the burned victim, since you may contaminate the burn wound.

Fact: Most burn injuries, though serious, pose no immediate threat to life. The burn victim should be fully examined and cared for as if the burn injury were not present. Prevent hypothermia, avoid unnecessary handling, since pain will be increased, and treat all victims for shock.

Fallacy No. 3: Other injuries should be cared for after the burn wound.

Fact: Care for a burn should take priority over other types of injuries only if the burn is caused by a chemical agent. If the chemical is not removed, the burning process may continue.

Other, non-chemical burns require a quick estimate of the extent of the injury by using the "Rule of Nines" (each arm is 9 percent of the surface area of the body, the trunk and back are each 18 percent, each leg is 18 percent, the head and neck 9 percent.

Examine burned victims, except chemically burned victims, as though the burn injury did not exist. Keep the victim warm and seek medical attention for the victim.

Fallacy No. 4: Don't ever touch a burn wound.

Fact: The burn wound may not be the priority or main injury. You may miss another injury for fear of contaminating the burn. Although unnecessary handling should be avoided, it is permissible to handle a burn.

Treat the burn wound by covering it with a dry, clean dressing. Keep the victim warm. Avoid antibiotic creams or ointments. Remember to protect the victim against shock and hypothermia.

Fallacy No. 5: A neutralizing agent will stop the burning process and therefore must be used on chemical burns.

Fact: Massive irrigating with water is the first treatment to use since it dilutes any remaining chemical agent and shortens its contact with the skin. A specific neutralizing agent is not usually available at an accident scene, and valuable time may be wasted in attempting to find it.

For chemical burns of the eyes, immediately apply water until an ophthalmologist is consulted.

Fallacy No. 6: Electrical burn damage can be assessed by examining the surface burn of the victim.

Fact: Electrical current flows quickly into the body's tissues, then "exits." The surface injuries of the skin involve small surface areas (entrance and exit points); the major damage occurs deep under the skin. Any major electrical incident must be handled as if this were the case. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation should be started, if needed.

First aid of burn injuries usually follows these steps:

* * Remove the victim from source of burn.

* * Douse and remove smoldering clothing.

* * Open the airway, if unconscious.

* * Provide mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and/or CPR, if needed.

* * Apply cold, if a first-degree or small area second-degree burn. Do not apply cold on a third-degree burn.

* * Control bleeding.

* * Look for fractures and splint.

* * Apply standard shock prevention measures.

* * Quickly estimate size and degree of burn.

* * Cover with clean dressing.

* * Keep victim warm.

* * Determine if you or an emergency medical service should transport victim to medical facility.