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Thermal (Heat or Fire) Burns (cont.)

When Should I Call the Doctor About Thermal Burns?

Seek emergency medical care if you have any partial or full thickness burn that involves the genitals, eyes, ears, hands, or feet, or burns over major joints regardless of size. Also seek immediate medical care for the following burns:

  • Any full thickness burn, for example, that looks dry, is painless, or looks charred
  • Any partial thickness burn that is more than the size of your palm
  • If pain is uncontrollable

Call 911 for emergency medical transport in these cases

  • If there are extensive partial thickness or full thickness burns to the body
  • For any problems breathing with burns to the face
  • With a large amount of smoke exposure in a closed room
  • If a person is unconscious after he or she has sustained a burn
  • If you need to update your tetanus shot, your doctor can check your medical records or if you have any questions about burn care, call your doctor.

What Are the Exams and Tests to Diagnose Thermal Burns?

At the hospital, the doctor will take a history and perform a physical examination to determine the extent and severity of the burn.

  • In determining the extent of the burn, the doctor may use a tool called the "Rule of Nines." This tool is a formula that divides the surface area of the body into sections, each roughly 9%. Determining the amount of surface area burned helps the doctor decide on treatment of the burn.
  • No special diagnostic tests are needed.
  • The doctor will determine whether the burn or burns are superficial, partial thickness, or full thickness and begin treatment appropriately.

What Are the Home Remedies for Thermal Burns?

Patient Comments

The most important first step is to stop the burning process.

  • Put out any fire or flames (the common advice is to 'stop, drop, and roll' to put out flames on your clothing). Remove hot or burned clothing, if possible, or stop contact with the hot steam, liquid, or a hot object.
  • Cool the injured area with water (not ice) within 30 seconds. This may limit the extent and severity of the burn. Run your burned hand or finger, for example, immediately under cool tap water for several minutes.

Control the pain.

  • Apply a cool wet compress for pain relief. Do not use ice. This may worsen the injury to the skin.
  • Other common remedies, such as butter or mayonnaise have not been proven to work; and may increase the chance of infection.
  • You may also use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for pain as directed on the bottle.

Begin the healing process.

  • For small burns and burns that are superficial in nature, you may use a triple antibiotic ointment. This will aid in healing and limit the chance of infection.
  • Do not remove blisters at home, especially those on the palms of the hands or on the soles of the feet.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/16/2016

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Thermal Burns (Heat or Fire):

Thermal Burn - Causes

How did you receive a thermal burn? How serious (deep) was the burn?

Thermal Burn - Self-Care at Home

What were some home remedies you used to treat your thermal burn?

Thermal Burn - Medical Treatment

What medical treatment did you receive for a thermal burn?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Burns, Thermal »

Burn injuries account for an estimated 700,000 annual emergency department (ED) visits per year.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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