- Burned Finger
- How to treat a first-degree, minor burn
- What home remedies can treat my burn?
- Ouch! You’ve Burned Your Hand on a Pan of Brownies: Now What?
- Hot Pan Burned My Hand — Treatment Tips
- First Aid for Burns: 5 Things You Should Never Do
- Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline
- On this page
- What is a burn or scald?
- When should I call an ambulance?
- What should I do while waiting for an ambulance?
- What are the symptoms of a burn or scald?
- What causes burns and scalds?
- How to treat burns and scalds?
- Can burns and scalds be prevented?
- Complications of burns and scalds
- Choosing the wrong home remedy can make a burn worse
- Home Remedies for Burns
- Home Treatment for Second-Degree Burns
- Topic Overview
Burn first aid focuses on four general steps:
- Stop the burning process.
- Cool the burn.
- Supply pain relief.
- Cover the burn.
When you burn your finger, proper treatment depends on:
- the cause of the burn
- the degree of the burn
- if the burn covers one finger, several fingers, or your whole hand
Major hand and finger burns
- are deep
- are larger than 3 inches
- have patches of white or black
A major burn needs immediate medical treatment and a call to 911. Other reasons to call 911 include:
- burned fingers after electrical shock or handling chemicals
- if someone who’s been burned shows signs of shock
- smoke inhalation in addition to a burn
Prior to the arrival of qualified emergency help, you should:
- remove restrictive items such as rings, watches, and bracelets
- cover the burn area with a clean, cool, moist bandage
- raise the hand above the level of the heart
Minor hand and finger burns
- are smaller than 3 inches
- cause superficial redness
- make blisters form
- cause pain
- don’t break the skin
Minor burns require immediate action but often don’t require a trip to the emergency room. You should:
- Run cool water over your finger or hand for 10 to 15 minutes.
- After flushing the burn, cover it with a dry, sterile bandage.
- If necessary, take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Once it’s cooled, put on a thin layer of a moisturizing lotion or gel such as aloe vera.
Minor burns will usually heal without additional treatment, but if your pain level doesn’t change after 48 hours or if red streaks start spreading from your burn, call your doctor.
How to treat a first-degree, minor burn
Although first-degree burns are not as serious as higher-degree burns, they can hurt quite a bit and can leave a scar if not properly treated. To treat a first-degree burn at home, follow these tips from dermatologists.
First-degree burns are very common and frequently occur after one accidentally touches a hot stove, curling iron, or hair straightener. Sunburn can also be a first-degree burn. Unlike second- or third-degree burns, which are more severe, first-degree burns only involve the top layer of the skin. If you have a first-degree burn, your skin may be red and painful, and you may experience mild swelling.
Most first-degree burns can be treated at home; however, it’s important to know what to do. Although first-degree burns aren’t as serious as higher-degree burns, they can hurt quite a bit and can leave a scar if not properly treated.
To treat a first-degree burn, dermatologists recommend the following tips:
Cool the burn. Immediately immerse the burn in cool tap water or apply cold, wet compresses. Do this for about 10 minutes or until the pain subsides.
Apply petroleum jelly two to three times daily. Do not apply ointments, toothpaste or butter to the burn, as these may cause an infection. Do not apply topical antibiotics.
Cover the burn with a nonstick, sterile bandage. If blisters form, let them heal on their own while keeping the area covered. Do not pop the blisters.
Consider taking over-the-counter pain medication. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.
Protect the area from the sun. Once the burn heals, protect the area from the sun by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing or applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. This will help minimize scarring, as the redness from a burn sometimes persists for weeks, especially in those with darker skin tones.
First-degree burns usually heal on their own without treatment from a doctor. However, if your first-degree burn is very large, if the victim is an infant or elderly person, or if you think your burn is more severe, go to an emergency room immediately.
Related AAD resources
Proper wound care: How to minimize a scar
How to treat minor cuts
What home remedies can treat my burn?
Share on PinterestThere are many quick and effective home treatments for a burn.
There are a range of home remedies for burns that people can try.
The following home remedies can help a person safely and effectively treat first-degree and second-degree burns.
1. Running the burn under cool water
Running cool water over a first- or second-degree burn for 20 minutes can cool the skin down, soothe the burn, and prevent further injury.
This remedy has two beneficial effects. It reduces or stops the pain and also prevents the burn from worsening and damaging deeper layers of skin.
2. Clean the burn
After running the burn under cool water, it is essential to clean the burn thoroughly. People should use a mild antibacterial soap and avoid scrubbing.
Gently cleaning the burn will help prevent infection. If an infection develops in the burn, it may compromise the healing process. If the burn does not heal correctly, a person may require medical attention.
A person may not need to cover minor first- or second-degree burns with a bandage if the burn blisters are not open.
However, if the position of the burn means that chafing is likely, if dirt can easily enter the skin, or if any blisters have started oozing, a bandage may provide a barrier against infection.
It is important to wrap the bandage loosely, and avoid applying sticky bandages directly onto the wound.
4. Antibiotic creams
When a burn has open blisters, a person may want to use antibiotic creams and ointments.
Antibiotic creams might help prevent infection in the wound and help the burn heal faster.
After applying an antibiotic cream, cover up any exposed blisters to protect the wound from infection.
5. Over-the-counter pain medications
First-degree and second-degree burns cause pain until they heal. A person may wish to take medication to help reduce pain and swelling.
Ibuprofen is a safe and effective choice as a pain-reliever. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that can also decrease inflammation.
6. Stay out of the sun
Keeping a burn in the shade when outside in hot or sunny weather can help reduce both pain and the risk of increasing or deepening the burn.
If avoiding the sun is not possible, a person should wear loose-fitting clothing that covers the wound.
7. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a common ingredient in many creams, sunscreens, and moisturizers. Its gel form is a topical remedy for treating burns and promoting wound healing.
The aloe plant is a natural anti-inflammatory, promoting good circulation. It also has antibacterial properties that stop bacteria from growing.
Share on PinterestHoney can help a person soothe burned skin.
A systematic review from 2018 found that honey might provide some clinical benefit when a person applies it to burns.
Applying honey to a bandage, then placing it over the burn may help sterilize the area and prevent infection. It can also soothe burned skin, easing some of the pain.
However, the review advised that the evidence was of “limited quality.”
9. Plastic wrap
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service recommend using household plastic wrap as a potential home remedy for treating burns. It is best to layer the sterile film over the burn instead of wrapping the limb. For hand burns, a sterile, see-through plastic bag is a good alternative.
A 2014 study on the risk of infection when applying plastic wrap to a burn concluded that infection was extremely unlikely to develop.
Ouch! You’ve Burned Your Hand on a Pan of Brownies: Now What?
Ouch! Your finger brushed a pan of brownies just out of the 350-degree oven. Will those brownies taste good enough to make up for that angry red spot glowing on your finger? You’ve probably got yourself a first-degree burn, the kind that affects only the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin. In a couple of days it will peel.
If you really pressed the pan, or worse, the oven rack, you may have a second-degree burn, the kind that extends into the dermis, or bottom layer of skin. Along with turning skin red, it raises blisters.
In either case, it’s important to act fast. Quickly plunge that finger into cool water for about five minutes for a first-degree burn, 10 minutes for a second-degree burn. Do not use ice; it could damage tissue. If you happen to have burned a wrist or arm with clothing that sticks to the burn, immerse the entire area into cool water.
Next, be sure to wash the burned area with mild soap and water. Then cover it with sterile gauze. The burn effect doesn’t stop right away; it actually progresses for another 24 to 48 hours, in an evolution of redness, possible blisters, and peeling. Only after it has cooled is it OK to apply an antibacterial ointment or herbal salve, such as the time-tested Aloe vera recipe below.
Don’t slather on the butter! That’s an old wives’ tale and an anti-remedy. Butter retains heat and may be contaminated with bacteria.
The first week in February is Burn Awareness Week sponsored by the American Burn Association. Community educators reach out to raise awareness for prevention and treatment of these minor burns and worse, those occurring from ultraviolet light, hot liquids, fire, electricity, and chemicals.
A third-degree burn is drastic. Called a full-thickness burn, it destroys skin and reaches underlying tissues. Nerves are damaged, causing numbness. Skin may be white or charred. Immediately call 911.
For less serious burns, once the burn has cooled, try the aloe remedy below. It’s survived the test of time, when other ancient cures for burns, including cow dung, beeswax, bear fat, eggs, and lard, landed in the anti-remedy bin. Like butter, those retained heat or were contaminated with bacteria.
Aloe vera gel inhibits pain-producing substances. It is anti-inflammatory, promotes circulation, and inhibits bacteria and fungi. Studies show that it speeds healing of burns and wounds, and helps the survival of tissue after frostbite. It’s even more effective when paired with lavender essential oil, also anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antibacterial, and antifungal. You’ll find both at your local health food store. Make sure the aloe product is at least 90 percent aloe gel—only the gel inside the leaf is included.
- In a small sterile bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of Aloe vera gel with 10 drops lavender essential oil.
- Apply the paste as needed throughout the day, tightly covering the mixture between uses. You’ll have enough for several applications for a small burn.
Along with aloe, another winning ancient remedy in our book 500 Time-Tested Home Remedies is spreading a minor burn with honey.
Stay well and safe,
The Remedy Chicks
Hot Pan Burned My Hand — Treatment Tips
One of the most important things to do is to act fast and follow these tips for minor burn treatment:
- Use cool (a little colder than room temperature) running water for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain eases. A cool, clean, damp towel works, too.
- Swelling may occur, so remove tight items, such as rings or clothing, from the burned area.
- Do not break the blister if it bigger than your little fingernail. If the blister does break, clean it with mild soap and water. Apply antibiotic ointment, and then cover it with a bandage or gauze.
- Applying moisturizer, aloe vera gel or other pain relief gels may provide temporary relief. Don’t slather on butter, as butter retains heat and it could be contaminated with bacteria.
- Some over-the-counter pain reliever also may be beneficial. Ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen can help ease the pain.
- It’s also important to ensure that you have had a tetanus shot within the last 10 years, as you can get tetanus through an open wound in the skin.
You should see your health care provider:
- If the symptoms begin to get worse and larger blisters develop. Large blisters are best removed, as they rarely will remain intact on their own.
- If the burn covers a large area of the body or infection-like signs begin to show, such as oozing from the wound, increased pain, redness and swelling.
Call 911 for emergency medical help for major burns. You can protect your child from burns by following these safety tips from Mayo Clinic.
Leanna Munoz is a nurse practitioner in Express Care at Mayo Clinic Health System.
First Aid for Burns: 5 Things You Should Never Do
If the skin is unbroken:
- Apply cool (not cold or ice) water for at least 5 minutes by running water over the burn, soaking it in a water bath or applying a clean, wet towel.
- Use a moisturizing lotion, such as aloe vera, once the skin has cooled.
- Protect the burn from pressure and friction and cover with a clean, dry cotton dressing.
- Relieve pain and swelling with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Update your tetanus immunization, as even minor burns can lead to this dangerous bacterial infection.
Minor burns will usually mend without further treatment, but if it hasn’t healed in two weeks or is accompanied by other symptoms, call your doctor or head to your local ER.
Major burns require immediate medical care at an ER or burn center; call 911 if you can’t transport the burn victim safely.
- Remove the cause of the burn (stop, drop and roll) but don’t touch anyone who may have received an electrical burn. Use a nonmetallic object to move the person away from exposed wires.
- Check for breathing and administer CPR if needed.
- Check for signs of shock.
- Protect the burn area from pressure and friction and wrap in a thick, clean, dry cotton cloth; use a clean sheet if the burn area is large.
- Raise the body part that is burned above the level of the heart.
5 Things You Should Never Do To a Major Burn
Don’t use ice, ice water or even very cold water. Severe burns shouldn’t be treated with ice or ice water because this can further damage the tissue. The best thing to do is cover the burn with a clean towel or sheet and head to the emergency room as quickly as possible for medical evaluation.
Don’t treat an open burn with water. Unless someone’s on fire and your only option is to drench them to put out the flames (not on grease fires!), exposing an open burn wound to water can introduce bacteria.
Don’t apply butter, ointments or sprays. Butter and other greasy substances may cause infections and will have to be removed by the ER doc anyway, making it harder to treat the wound.
Don’t remove clothing that is stuck to the skin or try to peel away dead or blistered skin. This can cause further damage and create open wounds that are susceptible to infection.
Don’t give a severely burned person anything by mouth or place a pillow under someone’s head if there is an airway burn. This can cause an airway obstruction.
Burns can be serious and all but the most minor should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Medical City Plano Burn & Reconstructive Center of Texas can assess your situation and provide high-level burn care if needed.
If you need burn care, call (855) 863-9595.
Get fast, emergency help for burns and other injuries at one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
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On this page
What is a burn or scald?
Burns are damage to the tissue of your body caused by heat, too much sun, chemicals or electricity. Scalds are caused by hot water.
Burns and scalds can range from being a minor injury to a life-threatening emergency. It depends how deep and how large they are.
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When should I call an ambulance?
Call an ambulance or go straight to your nearest emergency department if:
- the burn is deep, even if the patient does not feel any pain
- the burn is larger than a 20 cent piece
- the burn involves the airway, face, hands or genitals
- the skin looks leathery
- there are patches of brown, black or white
- the burn was caused by chemicals or electricity
- the patient is having trouble breathing
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What should I do while waiting for an ambulance?
First, remove the source of the burn:
- If the patient is on fire, drop them to the ground and roll them or cover them in a blanket to put out the flames.
- If there is an electrical current, turn off the electricity.
- If it’s a chemical burn, take off any contaminated clothing and wash the affected area of skin with plenty of water. For dry chemicals, brush off the chemicals before putting the burnt area under water.
As soon as possible, put the burnt area under cool running water for at least 20 minutes:
- Don’t use ice (only apply water to the burnt area).
- Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burn.
- Don’t remove anything that is stuck to the burn.
Cover the burn:
- Use a light, loose, non-stick dressing. Use non-fluffy material. Plastic cling film is a good choice.
- If the burn is to an arm or leg, raise it whenever possible to reduce swelling.
Some things to avoid:
- Don’t touch the burn or apply ice.
- Don’t put a child with burns into a bath full of cold water.
- If blisters develop don’t pop them, and visit your doctor in case they need to be removed.
- Don’t use any ointments, creams, lotions or fat on a burn. They seal heat in and cause more damage.
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What are the symptoms of a burn or scald?
A superficial burn affects the outer layer of skin. It may be blistered, red and painful
A deep burn may be mottled red and white. It may be dark red or pale yellow. It will be painful and is often blistered.
A full thickness burn reaches as far as the fat underneath the skin. It may look brown, black or white, and feel dry and leathery. A full thickness burn can destroy nerves so may not be painful.
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use our burns and electric shock Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
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What causes burns and scalds?
The most common causes of burns are:
- scalds from hot drinks such as cups of tea or coffee, hot water from kettles or pots, or hot water taps in the kitchen or bathroom
- contact with flames
- contact with hot objects such as stoves, irons, hair straighteners and hot coals
- chemical burns from swallowing things, like drain cleaner or watch batteries, or from spilling chemicals such as bleach, oven cleaner and concrete onto the skin
- electrical burns
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How to treat burns and scalds?
Most small burns will heal themselves in 10-12 days. If the burn does not have any blisters or broken skin, such as sunburn, a simple moisturiser such as sorbolene is the best treatment. For all other burns seek medical treatment for appropriate dressings.
The treatment for serious burns includes:
- possible admission to hospital
- perhaps surgery
If things get worse, or if you are not up to date with tetanus injections, see your doctor.
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Can burns and scalds be prevented?
You can prevent burns and scalds by being vigilant when cooking. Make sure all hot liquids are out of the reach of children, turn pot handles inwards on the stove, and be careful not to give children hot food.
Take care with all electrical items. Unplug them when they’re not in use.
Always have smoke detectors in the house and keep a fire extinguisher handy.
If you are using chemicals, always use protective clothing.
Make sure your water is below 50 degrees to prevent scalds.
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Complications of burns and scalds
Large or deep burns and scalds can become infected. This can lead to infection of the blood stream (sepsis).
Serious burns cause a loss of fluid from the body. They can also lead to dangerously low body temperature.
After a serious burn or scald heals, there may be scarring. This can also cause problems with bones and joints.
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Choosing the wrong home remedy can make a burn worse
Your hand accidentally grazes a hot pan, or you spill steamy soup on yourself. Trying to soothe the pain with a home remedy such as butter or ice may be unwise.
“If you choose the wrong do-it-yourself treatment, you can increase the risk of worsening the burn, upping chances of infection and scarring,” explains Eunice M. Singletary, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville.
Here’s what you need to know to safely and effectively treat burns at home — and when to seek emergency help:
● Cool it and check it. Remove any clothing and jewelry on or near the burn, and immerse the affected area in cool water for 15 to 20 minutes. That dissipates heat, reduces pain and minimizes swelling around the burn, says Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Then check the burn to determine whether you need to call 911. For more about that, see “When to get medical help,” below.
● Don’t apply ice. It slows blood flow to the area and can damage tissue further.
● Protect the burn. Clean it gently with soap and water, then cover it with a nonstick gauze bandage. A piece of clean cotton material (not cotton balls) or kitchen cling wrap will also do.
● Don’t apply butter. The fat in butter will slow the release of heat from your skin, which can worsen a burn. (Ointments may act similarly.)
● Be wise about blisters. If a small blister forms a few hours after your injury, leave it alone. That natural bandage helps guard against infection.
But if the blister is bigger than your thumbnail, go to an urgent-care clinic or an emergency room. The burn may be deep enough to need a skin graft.
● Use pain products that work. If you’re uncomfortable, an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as ibuprofen or naproxen will not only ease pain but also help reduce inflammation and aid healing, especially in the first 24 hours after burning yourself. Aloe vera gel may also help.
● Don’t put milk on the burn. Some people think that the fat and protein in milk helps promote healing, but that’s untrue. Milk can’t penetrate the skin, explains Gary Goldenberg, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. In addition, bacteria in the milk could multiply and trigger a skin infection.
● Fight infection properly. Change the dressing daily until the burn heals. You can also dab on honey, which is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and contains fatty acids that help repair damage to skin, Piliang says. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery found that minor burns that were treated with honey healed faster than those treated with silver sulfadiazine cream, which is sometimes prescribed to help prevent infection.
● Don’t use antiseptic agents such as hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar, which can cause severe pain when applied to burned skin, Goldenberg says. The same holds true for toothpaste, which contains potentially irritating ingredients including calcium and peppermint. And skip OTC antibiotic creams for minor burns. Consumer Reports’ experts say they can contribute to the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics.
When to get medical help
Call 911 if a burn extends deep into skin and blisters immediately (a third-degree burn) or goes through to muscle or bone (fourth-degree). Neither may cause pain.
First-degree burns affect only the top layer of skin; they’re red, and they whiten if pressed. Second-degree burns affect the top two layers; they’re red, seep fluid, often blister, and whiten if pressed. For either, call a doctor right away (or go to an ER if a doctor is unavailable) if the burn:
•Involves the face, fingers, feet, genitals or hands; is on or near a joint; encircles a body part; or is more than three inches in diameter.
•Happens to someone younger than 5 or older than 70.
•Seems infected (increasing redness, pain or a pus-like discharge or if injured person’s temperature is above 100.4 degrees).
Copyright 2016. Consumers Union of United States Inc.
For further guidance, go to www.ConsumerReports.org/Health, where more detailed information, including CR’s ratings of prescription drugs, treatments, hospitals and healthy-living products, is available to subscribers.
Home Remedies for Burns
Mild burns typically take around a week or two to completely heal and usually don’t cause scarring. The goal of burn treatment is to reduce pain, prevent infections, and heal the skin faster.
1. Cool water
The first thing you should do when you get a minor burn is run cool (not cold) water over the burn area for about 20 minutes. Then wash the burned area with mild soap and water.
2. Cool compresses
A cool compress or clean wet cloth placed over the burn area helps relieve pain and swelling. You can apply the compress in 5- to 15-minute intervals. Try not to use excessively cold compresses because they may irritate the burn more.
3. Antibiotic ointments
Antibiotic ointments and creams help prevent infections. Apply an antibacterial ointment like Bacitracin or Neosporin to your burn and cover with cling film or a sterile, non-fluffy dressing or cloth.
Shop for Bacitracin and Neosporin online.
4. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is often touted as the “burn plant.” Studies show evidence that aloe vera is effective in healing first- to second-degree burns. Aloe is anti-inflammatory, promotes circulation, and inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Apply a layer of pure aloe vera gel taken from the leaf of an aloe vera plant directly to the affected area. If you buy aloe vera in a store, make sure it contains a high percentage of aloe vera. Avoid products that have additives, especially coloring and perfumes.
Honey just got sweeter. Apart from its delicious taste, honey may help heal a minor burn when applied topically. Honey is an anti-inflammatory and naturally antibacterial and antifungal.
6. Reducing sun exposure
Do your best to avoid exposing the burn to direct sunlight. The burned skin will be very sensitive to the sun. Keep it covered with clothing.
7. Don’t pop your blisters
As tempting as it may be, leave your blisters alone. Bursting a blister yourself can lead to infection. If you’re worried about blisters that have formed due to your burn, see a medical professional.
8. Take an OTC pain reliever
If you have pain, take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Be sure to read the label for the correct dosage.
Home Treatment for Second-Degree Burns
For many second-degree burns , home treatment is all that is needed for healing and to prevent other problems.
Rinse the burn
- Rinse burned skin with cool water until the pain stops. Rinsing will usually stop the pain in 15 to 30 minutes. The cool water lowers the skin temperature and stops the burn from becoming more serious. You may:
- Place arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, or toes in a basin of cool water.
- Apply cool compresses to burns on the face or body.
- Do not use ice or ice water, which can cause tissue damage.
- Take off any jewelry, rings, or clothing that could be in the way or that would become too tight if the skin swells.
Clean the burn
- Wash your hands before cleaning a burn. Do not touch the burn with your hands or anything dirty, because open blisters can easily be infected.
- Do not break the blisters. .
- Gently wash the burn area with clean water. Some of the burned skin might come off with washing. Pat the area dry with a clean cloth or gauze.
- Do not put sprays or butter on burns, because this traps the heat inside the burn.
Bandaging the burn
- If the burned skin or blisters have not broken open, a bandage may not be needed. If the burned skin or unbroken blisters are likely to become dirty or be irritated by clothing, apply a bandage.
- If the burned skin or blisters have broken open, a bandage is needed. To further help prevent infection, apply a clean bandage whenever your bandage gets wet or soiled. If a bandage is stuck to a burn, soak it in warm water to make the bandage easier to remove. If available, use a nonstick dressing. There are many bandage products available. Be sure to read the product label for correct use.
- Wrap the burn loosely to avoid putting pressure on the burned skin.
- Do not tape a bandage so that it circles a hand, arm, or leg. This can cause swelling.
There are many nonprescription burn dressings available. Be sure to follow the instructions included in the package.
If the burn is on a leg or an arm, keep the limb raised as much as possible for the first 24 to 48 hours to decrease swelling. Move a burned leg or arm normally to keep the burned skin from healing too tightly, which can limit movement.