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  Pauline Blum   September 23, 2015   Wound, Burns, First aid 0 Comments

Ouch! That’s hot!

Caring for minor burns

27041329_sThere are few injuries that are as painful and aggravating as a burn. Whether you accidently placed your hand on a stove, touched a hot curling iron or sunbathed for too long, that excruciating sting can often linger for several days and sometimes even weeks. Although minor burns are uncomfortable, they are common and definitely treatable if you take the proper steps.

Assess the severity of your burn

Health professionals diagnose skin burns by degree depending on how deep and damaging the injury is. Since some burns are far more serious and life-threatening than others, it is vital that you always analyze your burn first to know whether you need to see a doctor or if you can treat the burn at home. Burns are typically categorized as first-, second- and third-degree.

First-degree burns only damage the top layer of skin, called the epidermis. They are considered the least severe and are usually treatable at home. Symptoms of first-degree burns include:

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Pain

Second-degree burns go one layer deeper than first-degree and damage not only the epidermis, but also the dermis layer of the skin. You can sometimes treat second-degree burns at home, but a visit to a health professional may be necessary depending on the severity of the injury. Second-degree burn symptoms are:

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Blistering and scarring

  • Moist or wet appearance of the wound

Third-degree burns are the most serious type of burn and require immediate medical attention from a professional. This type of burn reaches the fat layer of the skin and can be life-threatening if not treated properly. Burns from chemicals, fires or electrical wires or sockets are often of the third degree. See a doctor immediately if your burn is:

  • Waxy or leathery in appearance

  • Charred black or white

  • Larger than 2 inches across

  • Located on the hand, foot, face, groin, hip, knee, ankle, shoulder or wrist

Apply first aid to the wound

If you suffer a minor burn, first and foremost, remain calm. You can relieve the symptoms of your burn with these steps:

  • Remove any clothing that that is not sticking to the injury, especially if you have a chemical burn.

  • Cool the burn with running cold water – not ice – from a sink, hose or shower for 15 minutes or soak the burn in cool water.

  • Gently clean the burn with soap and water.

  • To avoid infection, do not break the blisters.

  • Apply a thin layer of ointment such as petroleum jelly or aloe vera to quicken the healing process and protect the wound.

  • Do not use cream, lotion, oil, cortisone or butter on the burn.

  • To alleviate pain, take the proper dosage of over-the counter medication. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

  • If necessary, protect the burn with a length of lightly wrapped, sterile, non-stick gauze (petrolatum or adaptic-type). Avoid using a gauze that sheds fibers that could get caught in the burn and always remember to change the dressing every day.

  • To prevent scarring and infection, avoid scratching the burn, even if it itches.

When you should see a doctor

Untreated or incorrectly treated burns are susceptible to certain bacterial infections including tetanus. If you fear your burn is becoming infected, you should call your doctor immediately. Signs of an infection include:

  • Worsening pain

  • Increased redness and swelling

  • Oozing and pus

  • Fever

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Significant scarring

For more information on burn care and other injuries, visit Velocity Care’s Health Care Services page. If you are suffering from a burn or other health issue and wish to consult a physician, visit our website to find a Velocity Care clinic near you.


Photo credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Medical disclaimer

This site offers medical, health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. General information found on this website is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your health care professional.
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