Burns

How to treat different types of burns

There are three degrees of burns:

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Treatment of a burn depends on what kind you have. If a first or second-degree burn covers an area larger than two to three inches in diameter, or is on your face, hands, feet or genitals, you should see a doctor right away. Third-degree burns require emergency medical attention.

Despite some of the common remedies you may have heard of, do not put butter, oil, ice or ice water on burns. This can cause more damage to the skin.

First-degree burn treatment

Soak the burn in cool water or under running water, and then treat it with a skin care product like aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment. To protect the burned area, you can put a dry gauze bandage over the burn. If needed, take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to help with the pain.

Second-degree burn treatment

Soak the burn in cool water for 15 minutes. If the burned area is small, put cool, clean, wet cloths on the burn for a few minutes every day. Then put on an antibiotic cream, or other creams or ointments prescribed by your doctor. Cover the burn with a dry, nonstick dressing held in place with gauze or tape. Cleanse and bandage the area every day. Check for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, swelling or pus. If you see any of these signs, see your doctor right away. To prevent infection, avoid breaking any blisters that form.

Burned skin itches as it heals. Keep your fingernails cut short and don't scratch the burned skin. The burned area will be sensitive to sunlight for up to one year.

Third-degree burn treatment

For third-degree burns, go to the hospital right away. Don't take off any clothing that is stuck to the burn. Don't soak the burn in water or apply any ointment. You can cover the burn with a sterile bandage or clean cloth until you receive medical assistance.

Electrical and chemical burns

A person with an electrical burn should go to the hospital right away. A chemical burn should be washed with large amounts of water. Nothing should be put on the burned area because it might start a chemical reaction that could make the burn worse. If you don't know what to do or believe your burn to be severe, call 911 or your local poison control center, or see your doctor right away.