How to Treat a Burn Correctly

Burns can be extremely painful and cause serious damage to the skin. Improperly treated burns can often develop into much more serious conditions. While most minor burns will heal on their own, more serious ones often require immediate treatment. By learning how best to treat burns, you can help to reduce pain and avoid added complications. Here are the necessary measures you should take when treating a burn.

Assess and Identify

The first step when treating a burn is to assess the extent of the damage. This should help you decide on the best course of action for treatment. Burns are usually classified as first, second or third degree, depending on the amount and depth of tissue damage.

Less serious burns affecting the outermost layer of skin are typically described as first-degree burns, while those that have burned through to the second layer of skin, called the hypodermis, are known as second degree burns. Swelling and redness will be present in both, though it can be far more acute with second degree burns.

Third degree burns, on the other hand, are burns that affect all three layers of the skin and should be treated by a professional immediately. With a third degree burn, areas of the skin are often left charred black, or dry and white, and fat, bone or even muscle may be affected.

Minor Burns

Most first degree burns, and any second degree burn less than three inches in diameter can be classified as a minor burn. Depending on the size and location of these burns, they may be treated at home, without the need for professional help. Once the skin has been burned, it should be cooled immediately to reduce swelling. This can be done by holding the affected area under cool running water for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

After the burn has been cooled, it should be wrapped in a clean gauzed bandage to protect the skin. Be sure not to use any type of fluffy or cotton bandage, as this can stick to the wound. Once it’s been properly bandaged, the wound will generally heal by itself over the coming weeks, though you should monitor it for signs of infection.

Major Burns

Severe first and second degree burns, as well as most third degree burns should be treated as major burns. These injuries require immediate medical assistance, so your first step should be to call 911 or emergency medical help. While waiting for medical attention, you should cover the affected area in a cool, moist and sterile bandage or cloth, and keep the burned area raised, if possible. Refrain from removing any burned clothing or placing ice on the wound, as this might only serve to exacerbate it. Once you’ve been treated, consider getting a tetanus vaccine to avoid further medical complications.