Whether you singe your hand while straightening your hair with a flat iron or accidentally grab the cookie sheet without an oven mit – burns are definitely unpleasant. Believe it or not, contact burns are one of the most common household injuries.
Some household burns are more severe than others. It’s important to understand the different severities of a burn to determine if you’ll be able to self-treat it or if you’ll need to visit the doctor:
- First-degree burns. These are considered the least severe type of burn because it only affects the outer layer of skin. These burns usually cause mild pain, redness and swelling.
- Second-degree burns. These burns affect deeper layers of skin and cause blisters with white, wet, shiny skin.
- Third-degree burns. These burns are the most severe as they cause damage to all layers of the skin. While fourth-degree burns can involve the joints and bones – third- and fourth-degree burns are considered a medical emergency that should be treated in a hospital.
The majority of first- and second-degree burns less than 3 inches in diameter can be treated at home. Read through these home remedies to learn which are best for healing your skin, and which are the worst:
The Best Home Remedies for Burns
A mild burn typically takes a week or two to completely heal and usually do not cause scarring. The goal of burn treatment is to prevent infections, reduce pain and heal the skin faster.
General Rules of Thumb
- Don’t pop your blisters as this could lead to a painful infection.
- Take an OTC pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Be sure to read the label for the correct dosage.
- Reduce sun exposure as burned skin can be very sensitive to the sun. Keep it covered with clothing or bandages.
As soon as you suffer a minor burn, you should run it under cool (not cold) water for about 20 minutes followed by a gentle wash with mild soap and water.
Soak a wash cloth with cool (not cold) water and place it over the burn area to reduce pain and swelling for 5- to 15- minute intervals.
Antibiotic ointments and creams help prevent infections. Apply an antibacterial cream such as Neosporin or Bacitracin to your burn and cover with a sterile, non-fluffy cloth or dressing.
Studies show evidence that Aloe Vera is effective in healing first- to second-degree burns. Aloe is an anti-inflammatory which promotes circulation and inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Applying a thin layer of pure Aloe Vera gel straight from the leaf of an aloe vera plant to the affected area is the most effective method of treatment. If you purchase commercialized aloe vera from the store, make sure it contains a high percentage of aloe vera. Avoid products that have additives, especially coloring and perfumes.
Honey is an anti-inflammatory and a natural antibacterial/antifungal. Similar to aloe vera, the more pure your honey is, the more effective. Honey may help heal a minor burn when applied topically.
Home Remedies to Avoid
Not every old wives’ tale is good to follow for treating burns, especially these:
Save your butter for your bread! There is no evidence suggesting butter is a proven burn remedy, actually, it may actually make your burn worse. Butter retains heat and could also harbor harmful bacteria that can infect your burn.
Similar to butter, oils such as coconut oil, olive oil and vegetable oil hold heat and can even cause the skin to continue to burn.
Yet another myth, uncooked egg whites carry a risk of bacterial infection and should never be applied to a burn. They could also cause an allergic reaction.
There is no evidence suggesting that toothpaste can help heal a burn. Toothpaste can irritate a burn and create a more favorable environment for infection.
Ice and very cold water can cause a severe cold burn if used improperly. Use cool water on a burn.
When to See a Doctor
It’s important to recognize the signs of a severe burn that should result in seeking out medical care. You should visit a doctor if:
- a burn affects a widespread area more than 3 inches in diameter
- the burn includes the face, hands, buttocks, or groin area
- the wound becomes painful or smelly
- you develop a high temperature
- you think you have a third-degree burn
- if your last tetanus shot was more than 5 years ago
Third-degree burns should never be treated at home. They carry a serious risk of complications such as shock, blood loss and infections.
Symptoms of a third-degree burn include:
- waxy, white-colored skin
- dark brown color
- raised and leathery texture
If burns are left untreated, things could easily go from bad to worse. We hope this article helps you better understand the different levels of burns and how to treat them.