Check Your Symptoms
Most minor burns will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms and promote healing. But if you suspect you may have a more severe injury, use first-aid measures while you arrange for an evaluation by your doctor.
Immediate first aid for burns
- First, stop the burning to prevent a more severe burn.
- Heat burns (thermal burns): Smother any flames by covering them with a blanket or water. If your clothing catches fire, do not run: stop, drop, and roll on the ground to smother the flames.
- Cold temperature burns: Try first aid measures to warm the areas. Small areas of your body (ears, face, nose, fingers, toes) that are really cold or frozen can be warmed by blowing warm air on them, tucking them inside your clothing or putting them in warm water.
- Liquid scald burns (thermal burns): Run cool tap water over the burn for 10 to 20 minutes. Do not use ice.
- Electrical burns: After the person has been separated from the electrical source, check for breathing and a heartbeat. If the person is not breathing or does not have a heartbeat, call .
- Chemical burns: Natural foods such as chili peppers, which contain a substance irritating to the skin, can cause a burning sensation. When a chemical burn occurs, find out what chemical caused the burn. Call your local Poison Control Center or the National Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222) for more information about how to treat the burn.
- Tar or hot plastic burns: Immediately run cold water over the hot tar or hot plastic to cool the tar or plastic.
- Next, look for other injuries. The burn may not be the only injury.
- Remove any jewelry or clothing at the site of the burn. If clothing is stuck to the burn, do not remove it. Carefully cut around the stuck fabric to remove loose fabric. Remove all jewelry, because it may be hard to remove it later if swelling occurs.
Prepare for an evaluation by a doctor
If you are going to see your doctor soon:
- Cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth to reduce the risk of infection.
- Do not put any salve or medicine on the burned area, so your doctor can properly assess your burn.
- Do not put ice or butter on the burned area, because these measures do not help and can damage the skin tissue.
Home treatment for minor burns
- For home treatment of first-degree burns and sunburns:
- Use cool cloths on burned areas.
- Take frequent cool showers or baths.
- Apply soothing lotions that contain aloe vera to burned areas to relieve pain and swelling. Applying 0.5% hydrocortisone cream to the burned area also may help. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area of children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
- There isn't much you can do to stop skin from peeling after a sunburn—it is part of the healing process. Lotion may help relieve the itching.
- Other home treatment measures, such as chamomile, may help relieve your sunburn symptoms.
You may be able to treat second-degree burns at home.
First-degree burns and minor second-degree burns can be painful. Try the following to help relieve your pain:
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
| Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
| Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
- Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
- Do not take more than the recommended dose.
- Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
- If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
- If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.
Some doctors suggest using skin lotions, such as Vaseline Intensive Care or Lubriderm, on first-degree burns or second-degree burns that have unbroken healing skin. These skin lotions can be used to relieve itching but should not be used if the burns have fluid weeping from them or have fresh scabs. An antihistamine, such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton, can also help stop the itching. Read and follow any warning on the label.
When a first-degree burn or minor second-degree burn is 2 to 3 days old, using the juice from an aloe leaf can help the burn heal and feel better. Applying the aloe juice may sting at first contact.
It is important to protect a burn while it is healing.
- Newly healed burns can be sensitive to temperature. Healing burns need to be protected from the cold, because the burned area is more likely to develop frostbite.
- A newly burned area can sunburn easily. Sunscreen with a high sun protective factor (SPF at least 30) should be used for the first year after a burn to protect the new skin.
Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Pain, limited movement, or numbness develops.
- Difficulty breathing develops.
- Signs of infection develop.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.