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How to Properly Treat a Burn

How to Properly Treat a Burn

Burns can be a serious medical condition that require a physician's immediate attention. Not all burns are major, but even minor skin burns hurt and can create great discomfort. Additionally, healing of even the most minor burns can be extremely challenging. 

There are several different steps that you should take if you are experiencing a burn - both major and minor. Not all burns are the same, but should be treated as serious. Let's begin with what you should do if you experience a severe, life threatening burn:

Call 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Room if:

  •  The burn penetrates all layers of the skin
  •  The skin is leathery or charred looking, with white, brown or black patches
  •  The hands, feet, face, or genitals are burned
  •  The person is an infant or a senior citizen

For ALL Types of Burns:

1. Stop the burning immediately!

  • Put out the fire or stop the person's contact with hot liquid, steam, or other material
  • Help the person "stop, drop and roll" to smother any flames
  • Remove smoldering material from the person
  • Remove hot or burned clothing. If clothing sticks to skin, cut or tear around it

2. Remove constrictive clothing immediately!

Take off jewelrey, belts, and any tight clothing. Burns can swell quickly. Once these 2 steps are completed, take the following steps depending on the type of burn:

First Degree Burns: Affecting the Top Layer of the Skin

1. Cool the Burn

  • Hold the burned skin under cool, not cold, running water or immerse in cool water until the pain subsides. Use cool compresses if running water isn't available. 

2. Protect the Burn

3. Treat Pain

4. Know When to See a Doctor

Seek medical help if: 

  • You see signs of an infection, such as increased pain, redness, swelling, fever or oozing.
  • The person needs a tetanus or booster shot, depending on the date of the last injection. Tetanus booster should be given every 10 years. 
  • The burn blister is larger than 2 inches or begins to ooze. 
  • If the pain worsens, or redness and pain last more than a few hours. 

The doctor will examine the burn and may prescribe antibiotics and pain medication

Second Degree Burns: Affecting Top 2 Layers of Skin

1. Cool the Burn

  • Immerse the burn in cool water for 10 or 15 minutes. Use compresses if running water isn't available.
  • Do NOT apply ice, as it can lower body temperature and cause further pain and damage.
  • Do NOT break blisters or apply butter or ointments, as they can cause infection.

2. Protect the Burn

3. Prevent Shock

  • Unless the person has a head, neck or leg injury, be sure to lay the person flat and elevate feet about 12 inches. Elevate the burned area above the heart level, if possible, and cover the person with a coat or blanket

4. When to See a Doctor

  • The doctor can test your burn severity, prescribe antibiotics and pain medicine, and administer a tetanus shot, if needed.

Third Degree Burns: The Most Severe Burn

1. Call 911 immediately! 

  • 3rd degree burns need to be treated as a medical emergency, as they can become serious and life threatening quickly. 

2. Protect the Burn Area

  • Cover the burned area loosely with sterile, nonstick bandages, or for large areas, use a sheet or other material that won't leave lint in the wound. 
  • Separate burned toes and fingers with dry, sterile dressings.
  • Do NOT soak the burn in water or apply ointments or butter, as these can cause infection. 

3. Preventing Shock

  • Unless the person has a head, neck, or leg injury, or it would cause discomfort, lay the person flat.
  • Elevate their feet about 12 inches and elevate the burn area above the heart level, if possible. 
  • Cover the person with a coat or blanket. 
  • For an airway burn, do not place a pillow under the person's head when the person is lying down. This can close the airway.
  • For a person with a facial burn, have them sit up. 
  • Check their pulse and breathing to monitor for shock until emergency personnel arrive. 

4. See a Doctor

  • Lastly, 3rd degree burns always need to be treated by a doctor or medical professional. Doctors will give oxygen and fluid if needed, and treat the burn. 

To see a list of all of our burn products, visit our website at or call 1-888-687-4334 for more information. 

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