Burn Treatment

We toss out the “old wives tales” and share important first aid tips

Basic Burn Treatment
What to do before help arrives

Every burn requires immediate attention

It’s hard to know when to seek medical attention for a burn. Even a small, relatively minor burn can be painful, and can lead to infection. It’s often difficult to determine the size and severity of chemical and electrical burns since sometimes the burning can be internal.

The most important tip – WHEN IN DOUBT, SEEK MEDICAL HELP!

Here are some more tips from the Burn Institute

When To Call For Medical Help:

  • If the burn is on the head, hands, or feet.
  • If the victim is an infant, child, elderly, or is suffering from an illness.
  • If swelling or infection develops.
  • If there is marked discomfort or the burn is painless.
  • If a third degree burn is suspected.
  • If there is any doubt about how serious the burn is.

Burns are often more serious than they first appear. For burn emergencies, call 9-1-1.

Burn Thickness Categories:

1. Superficial:

  • Appearance: Pink/Red
  • Pain Level: Uncomfortable

2. Partial-thickness:

  • Appearance: Pink-pale, may blister, may be moist
  • Pain Level: marked discomfort

3. Full-thickness:

  • Appearance: pale-white, charred, dry
  • Pain Level: can be painless or have some severe pain

If you determine that you don’t need to seek medical help, here are some tips on treating a superficial burn that only covers a small area of the body.

  • Remove the person from the source of heat. If in the sun, move to the shade.
  • Apply cool (not cold!) water for approximately 20 minutes. This helps reduce the pain and stops the heat from penetrating deeper into underlying tissue.
  • Leave blisters intact. Breaking them can lead to infection.
  • Protect the overall area from heat (including the sun) and dirt.
  • Wash the burn gently with a mild soap and water, especially if a blister has burst.
  • Do not apply butter or grease. Butter and grease are used to cook food – don’t cook your skin!
  • Do not apply any other element to the skin. No lotions, ointments, nothing. Burned skin is very sensitive and more prone to infection.

Call your doctor if you need further information or assistance for:

  • Increased pain, redness, swelling or fever
  • Any burn to a child under two-years-old
  • Larger or more serious burns

If you call an ambulance and are awaiting medical help for a more severe burn, follow these steps.

  • Apply cool water. ONLY cool water, nothing else.
  • Do not remove clothing in and around a burn. You could further damage the skin.
  • You can wrap the burn in a sterile, DRY bandage, but this is not required while you await medical help.

Read More from the California Fire Prevention Organization