How to Treat Burns

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Getting a burn can be a very painful experience. Burns can take a long time to heal and often leave scars. It you have a minor burn, you can treat it very successfully by yourself at home. First degree burns affect just the top layer of skin and can turn red and be quite painful. Second degree burns go deeper and usually form a blister. The skin can become very swollen and pain can be severe. If you think you have a third degree burn, it is imperative to seek medical attention; your skin will look white or charred. The instructions included here are for first and second degree burns that cover only a small area. For large second degree burns and any burn you think might be a third degree burn, seek medical attention immediately.

Things You'll Need

  • Cold water
  • Aloe vera gel or ointment
  • Burn cream, commercially available
  • Clean bandages

It's important to administer first aid promptly after you receive a burn of any type because if you leave a burn untreated, it can quickly become worse. The first thing to do is to run the burned area under cold water for several minutes. This "cools" the burn and prevents it from spreading and getting worse.

If the person with the burn can tolerate aspirin, this is a good first line remedy that can help to ease the pain.

Apply aloe vera ointment, fresh aloe vera if you have some, or a commercial burn cream.

It's important to keep the burn clean, even if it's painful to wash it. Wash the burned area gently with water and a mild soap. Repeat this cleansing every time you change the bandage.

Cover the burn with a clean bandage. Change this dressing every day at least once and after every time it gets wet.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you believe you have received a large second degree burn or third degree burn, follow Step 1 by running cold water over the affected area. Then seek medical attention.
  • It's easy to avoid sunburn, which is usually a first degree burn, by using a sunblock product with a high sun protection factor (SPF 30 or higher). Be sure to re-apply such a product after getting wet or perspiring a lot.
  • First degree burns can heal in six days.
  • Second degree burns can take up to three weeks to heal.
  • Third-degree burns often take much longer to heal. Don't fool around; go to the doctor.
  • Do not pop blisters because infection can occur.
  • Don't peel off dead skin.
  • Don't peel away clothing that might be stuck to the burn.
  • Don't apply butter because it does not help bad burns and it can actually cause infection.

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