Treatment of Burns

The urgency of burn treatment is dependent on the extent and degree of the burn. The majority of burns (with the exception of superficial 1st degree burns) require some type of medical attention. To prevent burn complications, the following treatments are recommended:

Emergency care

Remove clothing: Irrespective of the degree of burn, all jewelry should be removed if it is in the vicinity of the burn. All constrictive clothing should be cut away to prevent further damage to the burn area.

Do not remove any clothing which is stuck to the burnt skin

Do not apply any creams, lotions or other home made remedy

Apply cool water generously as soon as possible. Remember, children can quickly develop hypothermia, so do not just soak them in cold water. Ice should never be applied on burnt skin as it will cause further injury

If the burn is large, painful or has blisters, go urgently to the nearest hospital


First-degree burn: These burns are not very serious in most cases. The burns are generally treated as a sun burn with cold compress and pain medication. One should keep the skin clean and dry and in several days the majority of 1st degree burns get better. Aloe Vera has been widely used for first degree burns. There is no harm in applying it but any soothing lotion is just as good. If the burn is not infected, there is no need to use any antibiotics, ointments or any special liquid antiseptics to wash the skin.

Second-degree burn: The treatment of 2nd degree burns is highly dependent on the extent and location. If only a small part of the skin is affected, it is usually treated as a minor burn, but if a large area is burnt, more extensive treatment is recommended. Any second degree burn in a child, near the groin, face, buttocks or a major joint should be looked at by a physician. While at home one should:

- not break any blisters

- remove any loose clothing or jewelry

- do not remove clothing which is attached to the skin burn

- quickly run the burn area with cool water

- apply a cool compress on the affected area, but do not apply ice

- take an over the counter pain pill

- if you have sterile gauze, wet them and apply them loosely round the burnt area. This will help protect the blisters and soothe the pain

- if the burn size is large and the pain is intense, go to the nearest ER

- do not apply anything to the burnt area

For small 2nd degree burns, if the burn is small, the skin will heal with a scar in a few months. You must either wear a sunscreen or cover the burnt area to prevent sun exposure- otherwise the area will become dark

Third-degree burn: In any individual who suffers a 3rd degree burn one should:

- always make sure that the individual is breathing and is alert. You may need to perform CPR

- remove any loose clothing but do not remove any clothing stuck to the skin

- never place anyone in a bath tub with cold water. Soaking with wet compresses is safer to prevent hypothermia

- cover the entire burnt area with sterile bandages

- do not apply anything to the burnt area

- do not waste time treating a 3rd degree burn at home

- Call the ambulance ASAP

All second and third degree burns need immediate physician evaluation. Topical antiseptic creams such as silver sulfadiazine, silver nitrate, and mafenide acetate creams are used for serious burns.

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