How to Treat a Burn - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Burn Treatment

  • How to Treat a Burn

How to Treat a Burn

How to Treat a Burn - If you suffer a burn, there are some immediate steps you can take to ensure proper care is received, including first aid and home remedies.You and your family are exposed to burn risks every day. Between curling irons, hot coffee, ironing clothes and cooking in the kitchen, burns are a very real possibility.

First Aid for Burns

If you or a family member suffers a burn, there are some immediate steps you can take to ensure proper care is received. First, treat every burn like a major burn until you can determine otherwise. You should calm and reassure the person who has been burned. Next you’ll want to address the following:

Remove Clothing and Accessories

Remove any clothing or tightly fitting accessories like wedding rings from the areas around the burn. If clothing is stuck in the burn, do not attempt to remove it.

Cool the Burn

If possible, run the burn under cool, not cold, water for 10 to 15 minutes. If this not possible, apply a cool, clean wet cloth to the burn. Do NOT use ice.

Assess the Burn

You should assess the burn to determine if it is superficial or more severe. You may be able to treat a superficial burn at home, but a more sever burn will require medical treatment.

Do You Need Medical Attention?

What if the burn is big? What if it’s more than red and a little swollen? How do you know when to seek medical attention? Here are four questions to help you determine if your burn requires medical treatment.

1) Where Is It Located?

Any burn to the face, eyes, ears, hands, feet or genitals should be treated in an emergency room. If the burn is more than just superficial tissue damage, you should also head to the ER.

2) How Deep Is The Burn?

Superficial burns, like sunburns, are commonly red and painful. They’ll blister 24 hours after the initial burn. If it’s a superficial burn, immediate medical care might not be necessary. If you or your child suffers a minor burn, it will appear red, a little swollen, and it will turn white when you press on the skin. A minor burn is painful – soothe the pain by cooling the burn under cool, not cold, running water for 10 to 15 minutes. You can also apply a clean towel dampened with cool water to the burn.

But if the burn is deeper, blisters will appear soon after the injury. Very deep burns are typically non-painful and cause blotchy skin discoloration that looks gray or whitish. Seek immediate medical care for this kind of burn.

3) How big is the Burn?

If your burn covers a large area of skin, a bigger area than the size of your palm, seek medical treatment. Larger burns, depending on where they’re located, can impair function. If you have a large burn on your foot and it’s preventing you from comfortably wearing shoes, don’t delay seeking treatment.

4) Are you up-to-date on your vaccinations?

All burns are tetanus prime, if you have not received a tetanus show within the last 5-10 years then you will need to get a booster and if you never have been immunized then you need to get a tetanus shot.

5) Is It Infected?

If a burn looks like it’s developing an infection, you need to go to the emergency department. The key signs of an infection include increasing pain, redness, drainage, swelling and odor.

Any size burn, minor or serious, can develop an infection. Because of that, it’s important to make sure your burn is kept clean and dry as well as covered with a clean bandage or sterile dressings and antibiotic ointment.

Home Remedies for Burn

If you have a minor burn, running cool water over the burn and keeping it cool with aloe is appropriate. However, if the burn in more serious, home remedies will only delay you from receiving proper medical care for your wound, which can significantly increase your risk of infection.

Identifying Burn Severity

The severity of a burn is based on how much skin is damaged, measuring the surface area and depth of the burn. However, it can be complicated to assess whether a burn is critical and needs professional treatment.

First-Degree Burns

Small first-degree burns and sometimes second-degree burns don’t need to be treated by a healthcare provider. A first-degree burn is characterized as the least serious type of burn, involving only the outer layer of skin. This type of burn may cause pain, swelling and redness.

In the event that you suffer a first-degree burn, soak the burn in cool water for about 5 minutes – this helps reduce swelling by pulling the heat away from burned skin. Then, treat the skin with Aloe Vera or antibiotic ointment and wrap it loosely in a dry gauze bandage. An over-the-counter pain relieve can also help with the pain and swelling.

Second-Degree Burns

A second-degree burn is more serious, causing red, white or splotchy skin, swelling, pain and blisters. If you suffer a small second-degree burn that is no larger than 3 inches, you can follow the same course of self-treatment, but just holding the burn in cool water for about 15 minutes. However, if the burned area is larger or covers the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint, treat it as a major burn and seek immediate medical treatment.

Third-Degree Burns

A third-degree burn is most serious type of burn and requires a call to 911 and immediate medical treatment. This type of burn involves all layers of skin and underlying fat, sometimes even affecting muscle and bone. Someone suffering a third-degree burn needs to go to the hospital right away. Don’t take off any clothing stuck to the burn and don’t soak the burn in water or apply ointment.

The skin affected by a third-degree burn may appear dry and leathery or look black, white, brown or yellow. This skin will also swell. In some cases of third-degree burns, the victim may not feel pain because the nerve endings have been destroyed.

A third-degree burn victim may also experience difficulty breathing, carbon monoxide poisoning or other toxic effects if smoke inhalation occurred in addition to the burn. These complicating factors make it even more crucial to get to the hospital right away.