How to Care for a Skin Burn
Skin burns can range from minor to severe. Minor burns, called first-degree burns, rarely require medical treatment unless the tissues impacted cover a substantial portion of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other burns, including second-degree and third-degree burns, should always be examined by a health care professional before home care methods are attempted. It is common for a patient to receive medical treatment for these types of burns and to be sent home with specific care instructions. Many methods of caring for a burn can cause more damage when the severity is second or third degree.
Examine the burn and determine if medical treatment is necessary. If the skin is simply red, swollen and painful, it can likely be treated at home. Begin by running cool water over the burn for 10 to 15 minutes until the pain is reduced. An alternative to running water over the burn is to wet a soft cloth with cool water and place it over the burn, rewetting the cloth frequently to keep it cool.
Seek medical attention for a burn that is larger than 3 inches in diameter; appears to have burned through one or more layers of skin; or that is on or near the eyes, mouth, nose or genitals.
Take over-the-counter pain relievers as directed by the product label or a health care professional to minimize pain. Unless the patient is younger than 2 years of age, nearly any pain reliever is suitable. Children under 2 should not be given aspirin unless under the advice of a health care professional.
Apply a thin layer of a burn care product, such as aloe vera or antibiotic cream, to the burned area. Use these products on open burn wounds only if recommended by a health care professional. Most third-degree burns should not be treated with these products.
Dress the wound with gauze and medical tape or a gauze bandage. To use medical tape with a burn, the gauze should be wrapped around the wound with the end pieces in a location that isn't near the burn. The tape should not be placed on burned skin.
Change the dressing once per day or more frequently if directed by a health care professional. Minor burns can be rinsed with water and patted dry before each gauze dressing is applied. Second-degree burns can be washed gently with cool water. Third-degree burns typically destroy several layers of skin and shouldn't be washed at home unless directed by a health care professional or the wound has been healing for several days or weeks.
Stop bandaging the wound when there is minimal to no pain, blisters have healed or the skin appears to be healing. Mild burns may peel, requiring a bit more time under the bandage for protection. More significant burns will likely scab over and need protecting for several days, possibly weeks.
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