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Treating Minor Burns at Home

If you have ever accidentally touched a hot stove or had a mishap around a hair curler, you know how painful a burn can be. “Acting quickly and correctly can help you recover from a minor burn faster and with less pain. The first thing you need to do is identify the type of burn you are dealing with. This can help you treat the burn appropriately,” says Tyler Elam, DO, St. Claire HealthCare Family Medicine physician.

Know Your Burn Type

1st Degree - May look and feel like a mild sunburn. These are considered mild burns.

2nd Degree - Outer and some of the inner skin layers are burned and usually blister. The injury may be very painful. If a second degree burn is less than 3 inches in diameter, treat it as a minor burn.

3rd Degree - All skin layers are destroyed. Injury looks charred or white. May cause little or no pain.

For a second- or third-degree burn, usually caused by electricity or chemicals, burns involving the eyes, mouth, or airway, or any burn that covers large parts of the body, go to the emergency department or call 911 right away.

Minor Burn First Aid Treatment at Home

Elam suggests the following instructions on how to treat a minor burn at home.

Step 1. Separate the heat source from skin

-If clothing is soaked in a hot liquid, remove immediately or get in a cool shower.

-Stop, drop and roll if flames are present.

Step 2. Cool the burn right away

The skin will hold heat and continue to burn until cooled. Hold the burn under cool running water for several minutes. Or place clean, water-soaked cloths, towels, or sheets over the burn. Add more cool water to the cloth as it absorbs heat from the burn.

Step 3. Clean the burn

Remove any clothing covering the burn. Any cloth fibers attached to the burn should be removed by a healthcare provider. Lightly clean small first- or second-degree burns with mild soap and water.

Step 4. Bandage the burn

Protect the burn with a clean, dry dressing loosely bandaged in place.

You can soothe pain from a minor burn with a burn cream or by taking over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin.

Things to Avoid:

-Don't use butter on a burn. Oil seals in heat and may cause infection.

-Don't break any blisters. They protect the burn from infection.

To download these instructions, click here.

While minor burns generally aren't serious, it is important to know how to treat them as well as when to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider. If you are looking for a healthcare provider, you can visit www.st-claire.org/appointment to schedule an appointment with one of St. Claire HealthCare’s providers.