Family Corner: Properly Caring for Minor Burns
Burns are often categorized as first-, second- or third-degree, depending on how badly the skin is damaged. First-degree burns are the least severe and most heal on their own, so knowing basic home treatment is important to relieve symptoms and promote healing. If you or a family member experience a minor burn, follow these steps.
Steps for Proper Burn Care
- Remove clothing and jewelry from the burned area. Clothing can trap heat against the skin and worsen a burn, while rings, watches and other tight jewelry can cause discomfort if the area swells.
- Cool the burn. Run cool (not cold) water over the burn for 10 minutes or longer. If running water is not available, immerse the burn in cool water or apply a cold compress to the burn. Do not use ice as this could cause more damage to skin.
- Moisturize. Apply aloe vera gel to moisturize skin and possibly reduce pain and inflammation. Before purchasing, make sure the product contains 100% pure aloe vera, or as much as possible. Do not apply butter, grease, ointment, powder or other substances which can retain heat and increase the risk of infection.
- Don’t disturb blisters. Blisters are the body’s way of guarding the skin from infection. Avoid breaking them. If blisters do break, gently wash the area with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a nonstick bandage.
- Take over-the-counter pain reliever. If discomfort persists, take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to manage pain.
- Consider a tetanus shot. A burn makes you more susceptible to tetanus Consider getting a tetanus booster shot if your immunizations aren’t up-to-date or you are unsure when you had your last tetanus shot.
When to Seek Emergency Care
Some burns require immediate medical attention. Here are some guidelines to help you determine if you should head to an urgent care center or emergency room for treatment.
- The burned area is larger than three inches in diameter.
- The burn appears to cover more than 10% of the body.
- The burn covers the hands, face, feet, groin, buttocks or a major joint.
- The burn was caused by a fire, chemicals or an electrical wire or socket.
- There is puss or foul-smelling drainage coming from the burn.
- The burn has not healed within two weeks.
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