Hot Tips: First Aid For Burns

What should you do if you or a family member is burned? Most burns heal without scarring, but all require immediate care. If you are burned, follow these steps to protect your skin:

  • Soak the Burned Area – soak the burn in cold -not iced- water for 10 minutes. Use the closest garden hose if you’re outside.
  • Remove Clothing – from the burned area. If clothing sticks to the skin, leave it there and cut away the remaining fabric.
  • Remove Jewelry – take off rings and jewelry from burned areas that may swell
  • Cover Burned Area – place a clean, dry bandage, including sterile gauze pads, clean sheets, plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Use a wet sheet for chemical burns. Unless you have sterile gauze, leave an oozing burn uncovered and see a physician.

Caring For a Burn at Home

  • Wash the burned area gently with liquid soap twice a day
  • Remove dead skin with a small pair of scissors
  • Change bandages daily
  • If a blister breaks, ask your doctor for an antibiotic ointment to use, and cover the treated area with sterile gauze
  • Apply a cold compress on the burn for pain relief
  • Use pain medication as directed by your doctor

IMPORTANT: DO NOT use butter, grease, creams, sprays, burn ointments or powders to treat a burn.

When To See A Doctor

Burns are classified by degrees:

In general, you should seek help for all 3rd degree burns and large 2nd degree burns, as well as for burns suffered by children and older adults.

Signs and Symptoms To Watch For

Always call your doctor if:

  • A blister exceeds two inches or oozes
  • Redness and pain last more than a few hours
  • Pain gets worse instead of better
  • Face, hands, feet or genitals are burned
  • Burned skin is charred or white
  • A burn was caused by an extremely hot substance, a chemical, an explosive, or electricity
  • A burn becomes infected or you notice increased redness, swelling, discharge, or a bad odor
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