Story by: Norton Healthcare on December 1, 2021
Burn first aid begins with clean, cool water for all but the most serious burns. Adding ice directly to the burn could damage the skin more, while butter, egg white or vitamin E can introduce sources of infection and other contaminants.
When cooking, use mitts for protection from hot surfaces around the stove or oven. Grabbing a dish towel may seem like an easy substitute, but it won’t protect your wrists and forearms. Also, open the oven all the way to reduce your chances of brushing against a hot surface.
The mildest type of burn is a first-degree burn — inflamed and painful to the touch like a sunburn. Run cool water until the initial pain of the burn subsides. You can protect it with a bandage and take over-the-counter pain relief, and the burn will heal without further treatment.
If clean, cool water isn’t available, a cold compress or ice wrapped in a towel is an alternative. Even after you pull back from the source of the burn, damage to the skin continues. Cool water helps stop the damage by lowering skin temperature.
After you’ve cooled the burn area, you can gently pat the area dry. Ibuprofen can help with any pain or discomfort.
A first-degree burn over a large part of the body or affecting an infant or an older adult requires immediate treatment.
This is a more serious burn and typically causes blisters and perhaps some loss of skin.
For second-degree burn first aid, hold the wound under clean, cool water for at least 10 minutes and as long as 20 minutes.
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Don’t try to drain blisters, as the skin is protecting against infection. If the blister breaks on its own, bandage it.
Small second-degree burns that may result from touching a hot cooking pan likely can be treated at home with pain relievers and a sterile bandage. A more widespread second-degree burn requires medical attention.
This is the most serious type of burn and requires emergency medical attention. Skin layers are lost, and skin may appear charred, dry and leathery.
Cover the burn lightly with lint-free gauze or cloth while awaiting a medical professional. Keep the person warm and comfortable and watch for signs of shock. If the burn involves the head, watch closely for breathing difficulty.
Reviewed by Monalisa M. Tailor, M.D., internal medicine physician at Norton Community Medical Associates – Barret.
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