Burn Treatment

Our skin controls the amount of heat our bodies retain or release, holds in fluids, and protects us from infection.  Burns destroy skin, and this is the reason why even burn injuries to relatively small parts of our bodies may be very serious.  While burns on fingers and hands are usually not dangerous, burns injuring even relatively small areas of skin can develop serious complications.  Nothing but the most minor burn injury should be self-treated.  All other burns require immediate medical attention.  For this reason, if you have suffered a burn within the past 48 hours and consider it serious enough to search the Internet for possible complications, you are strongly encouraged to consult a doctor immediately.  The below information is provided for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for consulting a medical doctor.

If you feel you have received minor/superficial burn, the care is straightforward.  Cover the burn with a cool, wet towel or soak the burned area in cold water for about five minutes.  Do not ice the burn as applying ice can further damage your skin.  Next, cover the burn with a clean, sterile cloth, but keep in mind that friction against the cloth can make the burn worse.  Do not apply a band-aid or other adhesive, as you could run the risk of tearing away skin when removing the bandage.  Your skin will probably feel tight and maybe even itchy over the next few days, but the burn should heal itself in a few days to a week.

If you feel you have received a more serious burn, then don't take chances and go straight to the hospital or doctor's office.  Immediate action can prevent a lot of unnecessary damage and trained medical staff will assist you in the proper care.  You will know if your burn is serious by seeing if any blisters result.  If your burn involved clothing, do not try and remove the clothing if it is stuck to the burn.  This could peel off important skin and/or tissue and make the situation much worse.  If you must remove the clothing, cut it away. 

One of the most common signs of a partial or full thickness burn is a blister.  It is important that you resist the urge to pop the blisters as well apply any type of cream - even burn cream - to the blisters immediately after the incident occurs.  The best type of immediate care is to apply a smooth, dampened fabric to cover the burn.  Or, if nothing like this is available, run the burn under cool water.  You will want to cool the burn down so that is does not do any more damage to your skin.  Remember, do not apply ice to it.  Also, it may take as long as 48 hours for blisters to form so the lack of blisters immediately after the burn may not be a reliable indicator of the severity of the burn.  The degree of pain may be a more reliable immediate indicator.

If the burn is located on the face, be especially careful.  The skin on the face is extremely sensitive, and very susceptible to scarring.  If you are burned around your eyes or mouth and are have trouble opening them, stay as still as possible.  Do not use band-aids, creams or oils - at this point these things can potentially make the burn worse.  The best thing to do is cover the burn with a smooth, cool, damp cloth and seek immediate medical attention.

If you are witnessing a serious burn on another person, keep them conscious and talking to you.  This will help prevent them from going into shock.  Signs of shock include pale and clammy skin, loss of consciousness or a dropping pulse.