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The treatment for burns can vary depending on how deep or extensive they are. Minor or first-degree burns only cause superficial skin damage, which can easily be managed at home.
Second-degree and third-degree burns, however, are beyond the scope of self-treatment and warrant a visit to the emergency room.
Minor burns often cause swelling and redness and may take 3 days to a few weeks to heal. When treating these burns at home, it is important to know the correct methods to prevent scarring or infection.
At-Home First Aid for Minor Burns
It is important to treat burns immediately, as the skin damage can give way to infections. Deep burns require professional medical care, but minor burns may be treated at home with the following first-aid tips:
- First, it is essential to remove the affected person from the heat source to prevent further damage.
- Run cold or lukewarm water over the burn for about 20 minutes. Refrain from using ice, chilled water, or creams on the burn.
- Remove any clothing or jewelry on or near the affected skin. However, do not remove any piece of clothing that is stuck to the burn.
- After cooling down the affected area, apply a lotion containing aloe vera or moisturizer over the burn. Doing so helps prevent drying and aids relief.
- It is vital to cover the burnt area to prevent infection. However, abstain from wrapping it too tightly to avoid undue pressure on the damaged skin. Use a dry gauze bandage or a clean cloth to cover the area. Refrain from using fluffy fabric such as blankets and towels.
- After the burn has healed, avoid exposing it to sunlight to prevent scarring. The redness may be present for many weeks, especially if you have a dark skin tone. This is called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. For this purpose, seek shelter whenever possible, wear protective clothing, or use an SPF 30 or higher waterproof, broad-spectrum sunscreen.
- You may also use an over-the-counter pain relief drug, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and follow the directions on the label. However, if the pain does not subside, contact a doctor.
Additional Tips and Home Remedies for Minor Burns
- You can apply aloe vera or an antibiotic ointment to the burnt area after cooling it down to facilitate healing. (1)
- Honey may also be used after cleaning the affected area. It has wound-healing, wound-debriding, antioxidant, nutritional, and antimicrobial properties that can aid treatment. (2)(3) However, further research is required to establish the role of honey in healing burns.
- Apply petroleum jelly to the affected area two to three times a day.
- Refrain from using grease, butter, or powder on the burn, since they can aggravate the damage.
- If chemicals (acids or alkalis) cause the burn, run water over the affected area for 20 minutes, taking extra care not to spill it over anyone else. Alternatively, take a cool shower.
- You may use non-adhesive dressings, especially in children, for joint areas. These should be changed three times a week.
- You may use essential oils for treatment, as a few recent studies indicate their use in home remedies for several problems, including minor burns. However, since there is a lack of conclusive scientific evidence, the efficacy, safety, and usage of essential oils for burns are still unclear. (4)(5)
- Consult a doctor if the burn is deep or the redness and swelling do not subside in a few hours.
Self-Care Tips for Preventing Minor Burns
Most minor burns are caused by accidents. Follow these self-care measures to lower the chances of burns:
- Educate children on fire safety and prevention.
- Lock up flammable and explosive objects, such as gasoline, firecrackers, and matches, out of the reach of children.
- Keep an eye on children near a fireplace or in the kitchen, bathtub, or water faucets.
- Refrain from holding children when working around a fire.
- Check the water temperature of your child’s bath.
- Install smoke detectors and take measures to maintain them in a working state, such as checking the battery every month and replacing them every 2 years.
- Turn the pot handles to the backside of the stove while cooking.
- Refrain from leaving cooking food unattended.
- Store a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
- Avoid smoking indoors.
- Sun precaution is key, as well as early and expedited care.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight. Ask your children to play under the shade when outside, especially in the afternoon.
- Refrain from exposing an infant under 6 months to direct sunlight.
- Wear protective clothing such as loose, long-sleeved cotton shirts. This measure is especially important for children.
- Protect the burn from infection or friction.
- Avoid tanning or injuring the affected area.
- In the case of scalding in the mouth due to a hot liquid, avoid consuming hot and spicy foods, alcohol, or smoking until the burn is healed.
Minor burns cause superficial skin damage, which can be reduced and reversed through timely home treatment.
It is vital to tend to burn damage immediately and take first-aid measures to extinguish the trapped heat, avoid further skin damage or infection at the wound site, and minimize scar formation.
Plus, the sooner you treat the burn, the faster it heals. Lastly, getting burnt once should prompt you to take preventive measures to avoid such incidents in the future.