How to Treat a Burn?
If a burn is relatively minor it probably isn’t necessary to seek professional help from a doctor. There are a few simple steps you can take to relieve the pain and start the healing process. The first thing to do is run cool water over the affected area for a few minutes. Do not use ice or cold water from the refrigerator because the extremes in temperature may cause more problems. In addition, don’t use butter. This is a traditional home remedy that may actually cause more difficulties, rather than helping with the “cure.”
If the burn is on a hand or foot you can soak the area in a bowl or other container filled with cool water from the sink. After this you should dry the spot gently with a soft towel. Don’t rub it because you could cause further inflammation and might even break the skin. You can also apply Aloe Vera gel or another over-the-counter lotion or cream that will reduce pain and inflammation. An active ingredient that works best is lidocaine.
Once you have soaked the burned area, dried it carefully and applied the right lotion, cream or gel, cover the spot with loose gauze or cloth dressing to protect it as it heals. It is important that you do not wrap the area tightly. Burn spots need air and circulation to complete the healing process. An over-the-counter pain reliever will help reduce the pain and may reduce some of the inflammation. If pain continues and the red area spreads, seek medical help immediately.
If you feel the burn is more serious than this, you can use these general guidelines for the three degrees of burns. A first-degree burn causes the outer layer of skin to turn red. Some skin cells are damaged or destroyed. There may be minor swelling along with some pain and discomfort.
Second-degree burns reach into the second layer of skin (below the visible surface). With second-degree burns we often see blisters and the skin becomes very red. Pain and swelling will usually be more advanced than with first-degree burns.
Third-degree burns cause major damage to several layers of skin, usually over a larger area of the body. These require medical attention and advanced techniques to repair and heal the affected areas. In some cases a victim may experience damage to muscle tissue and to layers of necessary fat under the skin. It is important not to try to remove clothing immediately when a person has been burned. Those who come to assist should only remove materials that are still burning or smoldering. Seek medical help right away.
The bottom line with treating burns is this: cool the area (not with ice or butter!); make sure there is no other damage or injury that should be treated; keep the burned area elevated and move about as normally as possible; cover the burned area loosely to protect it, but continue to provide air and blood circulation to the area. It may be wise to get a tetanus shot as well, since burns can be invasive.