How to treat burns at home and when to seek medical treatment.


If you’ve ever accidentally spilled hot tea on you or touched a hot pan, then you know that even minor burns can be painful. While severe burns require immediate medical attention from a doctor, some minor burns can be treated at home.

In this article, we provide four home remedies for treating minor burns and how to know when your burn is severe enough to warrant medical help from a doctor.

4 home remedies to treat minor burns

The following treatments are for minor first and second degree thermal burns. Thermal burns are any burn from an external heat source such as a hot drink, an open flame, or a foil.

If your thermal burn is more severe or the source of your burn is different, then you should seek medical treatment. Other types of burns include:

  • Radiation burn – A burn from a form of high-energy radiation, such as gamma rays, that is usually given to treat cancer.
  • Chemical burn – A burn from a strong acidic or alkaline product such as toilet bowl cleaners, car battery fluids, and nitric acid used for metal refining and etching.
  • Electric burn – A burn caused by exposure to electricity, such as an electrical outlet or lightning.

1. Cool the burn with cold water.

Cool the area by running cold (not cold) water on it for about 5 minutes, says Paul Padda, BS, RN, ER at the Peace Arch Hospital Nurse. This reduces the temperature of the burn and helps increase blood flow. to the area to help with healing.

Do not cool the area for much more than 5 minutes or you risk macerating or softening the tissue. Also, avoid any direct application of ice or ice water, as this can further damage the tissue and delay the healing process. And don’t run the water over an open wound as this can introduce bacteria and worsen the healing process.

2) Apply aloe vera for faster healing.

Topical aloe vera has antibiotic and antioxidant properties that can aid the healing process for minor burns, Padda says.

A literature review found that patients with first- and second-degree burns using aloe vera healed 8 to 9 days faster than patients who did not apply aloe vera.

Avoid any product that has additives like alcohol, fragrances, or dyes, as this can lead to infection.

3. Apply honey to prevent infection.

Like aloe vera, honey has antimicrobial properties that help prevent infection and promote healing. For example, honey contains specific enzymes that break down sugars, of which honey has plenty of hydrogen peroxide, a very effective disinfectant.

Depending on the size of the area, 15 to 30 ml of honey can be applied directly to the minor burn or soaked in gauze prior to application. These steps should occur after the wound has been cleaned and cooled with water.

4. Avoid the sun

To minimize scarring, protect the burn from harmful UV radiation from the sun while it heals. This means staying in the shade, wearing protective clothing when outside, or applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. If the burn is still raw, oozing, or open, do not apply sunscreen, as this could lead to infection.

When to seek medical attention

There are four types of burns. First and second degree burns are usually treated at home, but third and fourth degree burns will need medical help. Next, we indicate what degree of burns you can have.

1. First degree burns

Superficial first-degree burns only affect the outer layer of the skin called the epidermis. Examples include a small sunburn or accidentally touching a hot pan for a brief moment. The symptoms are red skin, pain and the possibility of slight inflammation.

First-degree burns will usually heal on their own within 2 to 10 days and require no treatment. However, if the pain gets worse over time, swells, or becomes infected, you should see a doctor immediately.

2. Second degree burns

Second-degree or partial-thickness burns affect both the epidermis and the dermis, the second layer of skin. Examples include physical sources of heat, such as spilling hot water directly on you or burning your wrist on an open stove. Symptoms are swelling, redness, blisters, and possible scarring.

These can usually be treated at home if they are less than 2 to 3 inches (or 7 cm) in diameter. If the affected area is larger than 3 inches or in a sensitive area that includes the face, feet, hands, groin, buttocks, or skin over a joint, seek medical attention as this could cause additional complications.

3. Third degree burns

Deep partial thickness, or third degree, burns damage all three layers of the skin: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. They often come from hot liquids that touch the skin longer or over a wider area compared to a second-degree burn.

Symptoms are wax, white skin, or blackened charred skin, leathery texture, peeling, and numbness. Regardless of the size of these burns, seek medical attention immediately.

4. Fourth degree burns

Full-thickness or fourth-degree burns are extremely severe and extend to the muscle under the skin. Most of the time, they are the result of high voltage electrical burns or severe fire burns. These types of burns tend to cause partial or total loss of function in the affected area and should always be treated by a doctor.

The bottom line

For anything beyond a minor burn, you should seek medical attention immediately. Failure to do so could lead to scarring or permanent infections. You can also lose function of the affected limb, Padda says. Therefore, it is best to exercise caution when possible.

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