Minor burns can be safely treated at home. When burns are small and involve only a few blisters or simply reddened skin, home treatments are often all that are needed for healing. If burns cover a large area and involve blistering or charring, medical treatment is essential. One of the real dangers of a burn is infection--keep a serious burn covered until professionally treated. Even a serious sunburn can require medical intervention.
Immediate care can mean the difference between a mild burn and a serious injury. Fresh burns should be flooded with cold running water--if not, residual heat may continue to damage the skin. Severity of damage can be significantly decreased by promptly cooling the burned area. Don't use ice water--extreme cold can increase the damage rather than help.
The thick, succulent leaves of this well-known houseplant--native to East and South Africa--provides one of the easiest burn treatments. For a small burn, simply snap off a portion of leaf and squeeze the sap onto the wound. Reapply the aloe vera sap as needed. The fresh sap contains a gel that is the active ingredient for this salve--commercial juices and salves containing aloe vera will not have the same curative effect since the gel has already broken down. Canning and other types of processing will not preserve the gel.
Most commercial preparations come in the form of creams, but the poultice is still one of the better home treatments. Soak a clean and smooth cloth--a linen table napkin is a better medium than a coarse washcloth--in cold whole milk and place it on the burn. Treat with the milk poultice for half an hour and then dab the area clean with a wet cloth. Don't rub the burned area--damaged skin can be torn loose.
Another old but effective burn treatment is a tea made of boiled linseed, also called flax seed. Three tablespoons of flax seed boiled in two cups of water for 15 minutes will make a thick gel when cooled. When the mixture is lukewarm or cooler, soak a linen cloth with it and place it directly on the burn. The gel will form a thin, protective coating over the burned area and prevent the burn from drying out.
Many other popular home remedies exist, including lavender oil, papaya juice and boiled mixtures of comfrey root and marshmallow root. Some ingredients are difficult to find, and there's no reason to search out rare items when common ones will do. Avoid cures that involve oils and fats. Some recommend applying vinegar or baking soda to burns, but the result can be drying and caustic. An alcohol-based remedy can be equally damaging and painful. Don't experiment on damaged or broken skin. If burns do not improve or signs of infection appear, see your doctor.