How do I heal a burn quickly?
Treatment for minor and major burns is different.
- First-degree burns: These affect only the outer layer of the skin. They may cause pain, redness and swelling.
- Second-degree or partial-thickness burns: These affect both the outer and underlying layer of skin. Second-degree burns can cause pain, redness, swelling and blistering.
- Third-degree or full-thickness burns: These affect the deep layers of the skin. They can cause white or blackened, burned skin. Third-degree burns may make the skin numb.
If you are not certain about the type of burn, you must treat it as a major burn. For all serious burns, urgent medical attention is needed. You must contact the local emergency number or call 911 right away.
Minor burns: Minor burns refer to first-degree burns anywhere on the body or second-degree burns smaller than two to three inches in width. Most first-degree burns can be managed at home. However, they may hurt considerably and leave a scar if not properly treated.
To treat a minor burn when the skin is unbroken
- Run cold water over the affected part. Alternatively, you may soak the burned part in a cool water bath (not ice water).
- The affected part must be kept underwater for at least 5 to 30 minutes. This must be followed by covering the part with a dry and clean dressing.
- Apply cold, wet compresses for about 10 minutes or until the pain gets better.
- Calm and reassure the affected person.
- After the skin has cooled, you may apply moisturizing lotion containing aloe, petroleum jelly or antibiotic cream two to three times a day. Do not apply butter, ointments or toothpaste to the burn because they may cause an infection.
- You may take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen to reduce pain and inflammation.
- The burned area should be protected from pressure and friction.
- After the burn has healed, you must protect the area from the sun through protective clothing or applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.
Minor burns usually heal without further treatment. Tetanus immunization is needed if the person’s booster is not up to date. Medical help must be sought if the affected area is very big, the affected person is an infant or an elderly person or if the burn is severe.
Major burns: They include third-degree burns or second-degree burns more than two to three inches wide or second-degree burns on the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or over a major joint. Seek urgent medical help in case of a major burn. If the person is on fire, ask them to stop, drop and roll. Contact your local emergency number or call 911 immediately. To manage a case of a major burn until medical help arrives, you should
- Ensure your safety and bring the affected person to a safe place so that they are not touching any burning or smoking materials. In case of an electrical burn, do not touch the person. Try moving them away from the source with the help of nonmetallic objects.
- Use a thick material such as a wool or cotton coat, rug or blanket to wrap the affected person to help put the fire out.
- Pour water on the person.
- Do not remove the burned clothes sticking on the person’s skin.
- Ensure that the person is breathing. Rescue breathing and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) must begin when needed.
- Cover the affected area with a sterile bandage or cover the burned area with a dry sterile bandage (if available), clean cloth or sheet and protect the part from pressure and friction.
- Separate the toes or fingers with a dry, sterile, non-sticky bandage if they are burned.
- Do not apply ointments.
- Do not break the burn blisters.
- Raise the burned part above the level of the heart.
- Continue monitoring the person’s vitals (pulse, blood pressure and breathing) until medical help arrives.