Burns are some of the most common injuries a person can sustain. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people seek treatment at a hospital for burns, and many more treat themselves for burns at home.
Nobody wants to deal with the pain and discomfort that accompanies a burn. But, it's important to know how to treat them on your own. Remember, if you leave a burn wound untreated, you increase your risk of infections and other issues.
Read on for some essential first aid tips so you can treat burn wounds at home.
Types of Burn Wounds
Burns can be split into four different classifications:
Also known as superficial burns, first-degree burns affect the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis).
When you sustain a first-degree burn, your skin will become red and dry. The burn will also be painful, and the top layer of the skin will eventually flake off.
First-degree burns usually don't require medical attention.
A second-degree burn extends below the epidermis into the next layer of skin, the dermis. Second-degree burns vary in depth and can be considered superficial partial thickness or deep partial thickness.
Superficial partial thickness burns affect both the epidermis and dermis. But, the damage to the dermis is usually only superficial. If you have this kind of burn, the skin will be moist, red, and possibly blistered.
Deep partial thickness burns, on the other hand, fully extend through the dermis.
These kinds of burns are characterized by redness and scarring. They're typically less painful and less red than superficial partial thickness burns, though.
Second-degree burns (both kinds) typically require medical attention.
Third-degree burns extend all the way through the dermis. They cause the skin to become stiff. The skin may also turn brown or white in color.
Third-degree burns require intensive wound care and typically take months to fully heal.
Fourth-degree burns extend all the way through the skin and to the bone, muscle, and fat below. If you have a fourth-degree burn, the skin will look charred and turn black.
These burns require serious and immediate medical care.
How to Treat Burn Wounds at Home
First-degree burns can almost always be treated exclusively from home. For more serious wounds, you can do some preliminary treatment at home before you seek additional medical care.
If you need to take care of a burn at home, follow these steps:
Gather Your Supplies
Start by making sure you have all the supplies you need to care for burns properly. Stock your first aid kit with the following items:
- Nitrate gloves to avoid getting dirt/germs in the wound
- Cold compress to soothe the burn
- Aloe vera gel to keep the burn from drying out
- Antibacterial ointment to prevent infections
- Cotton swabs to clean debris
- Nonstick bandages to cover the wound and keep it clean
You may also want to keep some mild pain relievers (such as ibuprofen) in your first aid kit to minimize discomfort.
Treating First- and Second-Degree Burns
To treat a first-degree burn, start by soaking the affected area in cold water for at least five minutes. Don't apply ice directly to the skin -- it's too cold and can cause more harm.
Gently dry the area, then apply aloe vera gel or cream and an antibiotic ointment. Loosely wrap it in gauze or a non-stick bandage.
You can take ibuprofen to relieve any pain you might be feeling.
First-degree burns usually don't need medical attention. But, if they affect the face or a major joint like the knee, ankle, or elbow -- or if they cover an area larger than three inches -- you may want to visit your doctor to have it looked at.
When it comes to treating second-degree burns, the same guidelines apply. The only difference is that you should soak the area in cold water for a longer period of time (15 minutes or more).
You should seek medical care after sustaining a second-degree burn if it affects the face, feet, hands, groin, or buttocks.
Treating Third- and Fourth-Degree Burns
With third- and fourth-degree burns, you should always seek medical attention. Call 911 or have someone drive you to the hospital.
While you're waiting for treatment, raise the affected area so that it's above your heart. You don't have to get undressed, but you should take care to make sure there's no clothing sticking to the burned area, either.
Treatments to Avoid
At the same time that you ought to utilize these treatments, there are also some treatments that you should avoid, including the following:
- Cooking oils (vegetable oil, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.)
Some people swear by these natural treatments, but they're really just old wives tales. There's no evidence backing them, and they could end up doing more harm than good.
Burn Wound Maintenance
Once you've addressed the burn, it's important to make sure you continue to care for it so it can heal properly.
Some specific steps you can take to maintain the burn and make sure it heals well include:
- Moisturize regularly once the skin has closed to prevent blisters, itching, and skin tears
- Avoid putting pressure on the wound, as this can cause blisters or tears
- Avoid intense exercise, as the friction can cause ulcerations
- Be on the lookout for signs of allergic reactions (redness, itchiness, swelling, etc.) to antibiotic ointments
If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, stop using the ointment and talk to your doctor about switching to a new one.
Do You Need Burn Wound Treatment Supplies?
Treating burn wounds isn't as daunting as you might initially think. Keep this information in mind and you won't have any trouble in the event that you or someone you know gets burned.
We make it easy for you to purchase all the supplies you need to stock your first aid kit and effectively treat burn wounds at home.