June 01, 2017

What's the best way to treat a minor burn?

Q: What's the best way to treat a minor burn?

A: Minor burns that are treatable at home include:

  • First-degree burns — A first-degree burn involves only the top layer of skin (epidermis), and signs and symptoms include red skin that may be mildly swollen and painful to touch.
  • Second-degree burns no larger than 2 inches in diameter — A second-degree burn involves the first two layers of skin (epidermis and dermis). Signs and symptoms include pain, swelling, intensely reddened skin, blistering and a splotchy appearance.

For these types of burns, promptly follow these steps:

  • With a burn caused by a chemical, make sure the chemical or any clothing or jewelry in contact with the chemical is removed. If possible, use gloves so that you don't get burned elsewhere or so that someone helping you doesn't get burned.
  • Put the burn under cool running water long enough to reduce pain, which may take about 10 to 15 minutes. If running water isn't available, you can immerse the burn in cool water or apply a cool, wet compress. Don't put ice directly on the burn.
  • Dry the area with a clean cloth and apply a sterile, lightly wrapped bandage. Don't apply ointments or butter to a burn, as these can hold heat in the skin — causing further damage — in addition to increasing the risk of infection.
  • If needed, take nonprescription pain medications for pain relief.
  • Don't break blisters if...