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First Aid for Burns

There are many different types of burns and each can range from mild to severe. It is important to know how to treat burns if you or someone you are with is injured.

Burn Degrees

Degrees of burns range from first to fourth. If you get a burn, it is not necessary to try to classify it. Instead, you should assess the damage to decide whether you have received a minor or major burn. A major burn includes any of these signs: the burn is deep or covers an area larger than 3 inches; the skin at the burn site is dry and leathery looking; charred-looking skin or patches of white, brown, or black are visible at the burn site; and/or the burn covers the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint. If you or someone you are with experiences a burn with any of these signs, call 911 immediately. A major burn is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. It should not be treated at home. If the person affected is an infant or a senior, you should also call 911, regardless of the severity of the burn.

A minor burn, sometimes referred to as a first or second degree burn, affects an area no larger than 3 inches and may involve the following signs and symptoms: a superficial redness to the skin that is similar to a sunburn; pain at the burn site; and/or blisters on the skin at the burn site. A minor burn does not generally require immediate medical attention, but it is still a good idea to consult a medical professional, especially if it is your first time dealing with a burn.

How to Treat a Burn

First of all, keep in mind that major burns must be treated immediately by a medical professional. If you or someone you are with has received a major burn, call 911 right away. Minor burns, however, can often be treated at home. Treating burns at home generally involves a few key steps. First, you should cool the burn. You can cool a burn by holding the affected skin under cool (but not too cold) running water or by applying a cool, wet compress to the skin until the pain fades away. Once the burn has cooled off, you can apply an over the counter burn ointment or lotion. Applying burn cream helps to moisturize the area to prevent the skin from drying out, and may also help ease pain and discomfort. Some experts caution against applying an ointment for burns, as this can in some cases result in an infection or slow down healing by sealing in heat. What constitutes appropriate burn treatment often depends on the type and severity of the burn. If you are unsure whether applying a burn cream or lotion is appropriate in your case, you should consult your doctor.

Burn Care

After the burn has cooled off, you should cover the area with a gauze bandage. Do not substitute fluffy cotton. Bandage the area loosely to avoid putting any pressure on the damaged skin. In addition to keeping air off the burn, bandaging may also help to reduce pain and protects any blistered skin that may have resulted from the burn. Wondering how to treat a burn blister? Most importantly, do not pop a burn blister. Blisters serve the purpose of helping to protect the vulnerable skin underneath. You should also avoid applying burn relief cream over blistered skin. If your blistering is severe or painful, you should call your doctor or go to your local emergency clinic to be evaluated by a medical professional.

Burn Relief

If needed, you can take an over the counter pain reliever to help manage the discomfort associated with a minor burn. However, if you are feeling a lot of pain, even if you think your burn is minor, it is a good idea to call your doctor or go to your local emergency clinic for professional treatment. As the burn begins to heal, you can use a small amount of burn cream on the area. Look for a burn ointment formulated with a topical anesthetic to help reduce discomfort. There are many burn remedies and products to choose from, so if you are unsure which is best for you, ask your doctor for their recommendation. If at any point you notice that the burn looks infected, you should see a doctor right away. Infected burns can be dangerous. Signs of an infected burn include: pus or discharge from the affected area; an increase in pain; a change of color at the burn site; and/or a fever.

In most cases, minor burns can be treated effectively at home. With burn pain relief products and proper care, most minor burns will heal on their own. In most cases, once the affected area begins to heal, you should be able to go about your daily life normally. However, take care to keep the burned skin out of the sun, as exposure can worsen scarring and/or discoloration of the burned area. If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.

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