Burns are injuries to skin tissue that are usually caused by fire, hot liquids, the sun, chemicals or electrical currents. First-degree and minor second-degree burns can be treated at home. Minor burns cause redness, swelling, pain and sometimes blisters. Treating burns properly will help them to heal quickly. Third- and fourth-degree burns can cause damage to the tissue beneath the outer layers of skin and must be treated by medical professionals.
Things You'll Need
- Anesthetic cream or moisturizer
- Pain reliever
Determine the type of burn. A first-degree burn will cause pain and redness of skin. A second-degree burn may also include symptoms such as swelling, blistering and a moist appearance. Third- and fourth- degree burns will appear waxy or leathery. Third- and fourth- degree burns require immediate emergency medical attention.
Rinse the burn with room-temperature water for 15 to 30 minutes. This cools the wounded area. Do not use cold water or ice which can cause the body to become too cold and additional damage may occur.
Put lotion or moisturizer on the burn. Anesthetic creams and aloe gels can soothe the area and prevent dryness. Do not use butter or an ointment which will hold heat in the wound and can increase the risk of infection.
Bandage the wound with a sterile gauze. For second-degree burns, use a non-stick dressing, such as Tefla, held in place by gauze or tape. The bandage keeps air off the affected area and can relieve pain. Wrap the gauze loosely around the affected area. Do not put too much pressure on the wound. Change the dressing daily. Wash your hands before changing the dressing, gently clean the affected area and apply an anesthetic cream. For second-degree burns, place a cool, wet cloth on the affected area for several minutes before replacing the dressing.
Use over-the-count pain medication. Take aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen for pain relief. Do not take more than is recommended.
Wash broken blisters with antibacterial soap and water. Do not break blisters on purpose. Broken blisters are susceptible to infection.
Tips & Warnings
- Seek professional medical attention for serious burns, burns to the face or head, burns to the groin and for smoke inhalation.
- Check to see if you are up-to-date on your tetanus shots. Second-degree burns, and more severe burns, are susceptible to tetanus infections.
- See a doctor if your burn has not healed within several weeks.
- See a doctor if the burn is accompanied by a fever.
- The affected area can be extra sensitive to sunlight for up to one year. Even if it appears heal, be sure to apply sunblock.
- Go to the hospital for electrical burns. They can affect internal organs even if the externally affected area does not seem severely damaged.
- Do not use ointments for chemical burns. They can react with the chemical agent to make the injury worse. Contact 911, call the poison control center or visit your doctor for these types of burns.
- Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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