There are many things that can cause burns, from touching a hot pan, basking in the sun, to being exposed to chemical splashes. Third-degree burns are the most severe, and should always be treated by a healthcare professional. However, depending on their size and location, 1st and 2nd degree burns can be treated at home.
Part 1 of 4: Determining the Severity of the Burn
Step 1. Watch for signs of a 1st degree burn
First-degree burns are usually caused by contact with a hot object or environment. These sores may be caused by sun exposure, splattering hot oil from a frying pan, or being touched by a hot oven pan. First-degree burns are painful and will cause the skin's surface layer (epidermis) to darken. Even though it is red and stinging, the skin does not blister in 1st degree burns. The skin surface remains dry and intact.
- First degree burns are quite common and rarely require medical attention.
- Recovery takes 3 to 5 days.
Step 2. Note the blistered outer layer of skin in a second-degree burn
Shallow 2nd degree burns will cause redness, the same as in 1st degree burns. However, the skin damage occurs deeper, namely up to the second layer of skin (dermis). Unlike 1st degree burns, the skin will appear blistered in 2nd degree burns. Pain and bleeding is a good sign because it means there is no serious damage to nerves and blood vessels.
Superficial second-degree burns usually heal without scarring within 2 weeks, and do not require medical attention
Step 3. Watch for symptoms requiring medical attention in 2nd degree burns
Shallow 2nd degree burns heal on their own, but deep 2nd degree burns should be checked by a doctor. Watch for pale patches on the blistered skin. The blistered skin also bleeds easily and oozes a yellowish discharge. If left untreated, a deep 2nd degree burn can turn into a 3rd degree burn within a few days. Always seek medical attention for a 2nd degree burn, if:
- You hesitate to determine the severity of the burn
- You have diabetes or a compromised immune system
- Burns are caused by chemical compounds, especially alkaline substances such as Drano.
Step 4. Consider the size of a 2nd degree burn
First-degree burns can always heal on their own at home, but extensive second-degree burns should always be checked by a doctor. Whether it's superficial or deep, 2nd degree burns on more than 10-15% of the skin surface, require medical attention. The doctor will examine the burn as well as treat possible dehydration. You will lose a lot of fluid from the broken skin if the burn is extensive enough. Tell your doctor if you feel thirsty, weak, dizzy, or have difficulty urinating. If your doctor suspects you are dehydrated, you may be given intravenous fluids.
Step 5. Seek emergency medical attention immediately for third-degree burns
Third degree burns affect the epidermis as well as the deep layers of the dermis. Untreated 3rd degree burns can lead to sepsis and death. The difference with second-degree burns is the condition of the nerves, blood vessels, and muscle damage.
- Nerve damage in third-degree burns causes the injured area to feel numb and painless, although the edges may be painful.
- The skin will look and feel dry and thick/rough. You may also experience swelling.
- The skin will turn white, yellow, brown, purple, or even black instead of red.
- You may feel thirsty, dizzy, or weak. Dehydration may also make it difficult for you to urinate.
Step 6. Seek medical attention if necessary
First-degree burns and most superficial second-degree burns can be treated at home and heal quickly. However, you should consider seeing a doctor if the burn doesn't heal within a few weeks, or if new symptoms appear suddenly. If the pain, swelling, and discharge are getting worse or unbearable, you should also get yourself checked out. Seek emergency medical attention immediately if you experience:
- Burns on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, groin, buttocks, or major joints of the body
- Chemical burns or electric shock
- 3rd degree burn
- Difficulty breathing or burns to the airway
Part 2 of 4: Soaking or Rinsing Burns
Step 1. Rinse the chemical from inside the eye to prevent burns
Chemical burns to the eye can be very serious, so you should take immediate action. If the chemical gets into your eyes, rinse with water for at least 5 full minutes. You should immediately visit a doctor for a checkup after a potential chemical burn in the eye area. Your doctor may give you a 1% solution of calcium gluconate as an eye treatment. Your doctor may also prescribe anesthetic eye drops to help control pain.
If you wear contact lenses, remove them carefully when rinsing your eyes
Step 2. Soak the chemical burn in water
Chemicals that are strong enough to burn the skin will seep into the deep layers of the skin if left unchecked. Thus, all chemical burns require medical attention. However, while waiting for the doctor, the best thing you can do is to cool the burn (not cool it) with running water or soak it in a bath.
Step 3. Soak the thermal burn in cold water
Remember that thermal burns are caused by heat be it the sun, steam, or hot objects, and not chemicals. The first step in treating a superficial 1st degree or 2nd degree thermal burn is to lower the temperature of the burned skin. Put the burned skin in cool (not cold) water for 10 minutes. If you don't want to run out of water, put water in a bucket or tub and use it to soak your skin. Fill the tub with cold water again when it starts to feel warm, or add ice cubes to keep the bath water cool.
Just make sure the entire burnt area is submerged in cold water
Step 4. Consider using ice if cold water doesn't help
Note that many experts recommend against applying ice to burns because too large a temperature change can cause frostbite. Always cool the skin in the water for at least 20 minutes before applying ice. Just put the ice with a little water in a plastic clip bag, wrap it with a cloth or tissue so it doesn't come in direct contact with the skin and feels very cold. You can also use bags of frozen vegetables from the freezer if you don't have ice. Set the ice on for about 10 minutes while sliding it around if it feels too cold.
Always make sure to use a cloth or tissue as a protective layer
Part 3 of 4: Reducing Pain with Medicine
Step 1. Do not apply burn ointment for the first 24 hours
The ointment will seal the burn and actually hinder wound healing if applied too early. For first-degree burns, wait 24 hours before applying any medication or ointment to the wound.
If your location is far from medical facilities, and you have a second degree burn, apply bacitracin ointment (antibiotic) to the burn to prevent infection while seeking help. This is the only situation where you apply bacitracin ointment to the burn
Step 2. Look for over-the-counter benzocaine products
Benzocaine is a local anesthetic that numbs the nerve endings in the skin, thereby relieving pain from burns. There may be different brands of benzocaine in your pharmacy, including Anacaine, Chiggerex, Mandelay, Medicone, Outgro, or Solarcaine. In addition, this product can also be obtained in various preparations, namely cream, spray, liquid, gel, ointment, or wax. Read the instructions on the packaging to find out how to use and the right dosage.
Be sure not to overuse benzocaine as it absorbs more easily than other local anesthetics
Step 3. Take over-the-counter pain relievers
You can reduce pain from minor burns by taking over-the-counter pain relievers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) tablets such as ibuprofen or naproxen will help relieve pain and inflammation of the burn.
Follow the recommended dosage on the packaging. Use the smallest dose that is effective at relieving pain
Step 4. Apply shaving cream to the burn surface
If cold water can't relieve the pain, shaving cream is a solution that turns out to be quite effective! Shaving creams like Barbasol contain the chemical triethanolamine which is also the active ingredient in Biatine (a prescription cream used to treat severe burns in hospitals). Simply spread the shaving cream over the burned skin and leave it on until the pain subsides.
- Avoid using shaving creams that contain menthol as this can make irritation worse.
- This step should only be considered if you have a 1st degree burn. Do not try this method on a burn that is more severe than a sunburn.
Part 4 of 4: Relieve Pain with Natural Medicine
Step 1. Know the limitations of natural medicine
While you may prefer to use home or natural remedies, many of these methods are untested, and are based on experience, not scientific evidence. Without a scientific basis, the methods here may be risky and may not be recommended by doctors. If you want to use natural remedies, first consult with your doctor.
If you want to take advantage of the methods here, you'll need to cool and clean the burn first. You should seek medical attention if you have a burn that is more serious than a 1st degree or superficial 2nd degree burn
Step 2. Apply aloe vera to burns and minor sunburns
The skin care shelves at the convenience store or pharmacy stock many products that contain aloe. The compounds in the aloe vera plant are not only able to reduce pain and inflammation, but also promote wound healing, as well as the growth of new healthy and fresh skin more quickly. Apply aloe vera lotion to the wound surface several times a day as needed.
- Never apply aloe vera products to open wounds.
- You can also use pure aloe directly from the plant. Alternatively, look for 100% pure aloe vera gel at the convenience store.
Step 3. Look for St John's wort cream products
Just like aloe vera, the St. John's wort has anti-inflammatory properties. It's just that, lotion St. John's wort may be harder to find than aloe vera lotion. However, you can buy them easily on the internet, at many health food stores.
Do not apply St. John's wort to burns because it can inhibit cooling of the skin
Step 4. Use essential oils for minor burns
Essential oils known to reduce pain and prevent blistering include lavender, Roman and German chamomile, and yarrow. If your burn is extensive, such as from the sun, you can add a few drops of the oil to the bath water and soak in it. Smaller burns may be better treated in a focused manner.
- Be sure to cool the burned skin with cold water for at least 10 minutes.
- Wet gauze or a clean cloth with ice water.
- Pour 1 drop of essential oil onto the surface of the washcloth/gauze for every 2.5 square cm of burn.
- Apply a cloth/gauze to the burn.
Step 5. Treat minor burns with honey
Natural healers have used honey for centuries, and modern science agrees. Honey is efficacious as an antibacterial that accelerates the healing of various types of wounds. However, instead of using honey that is in the kitchen, you should buy medical grade quality honey to get the best results. This kind of honey is generally not available in regular department stores, so look for a health food store or ayurvedic drug dealer. You can also find medical grade honey easily on the internet.
- Do not apply honey to cracked skin, or burns that are more severe than 1st degree burns.
- The only exception is if you are far from medical facilities. If you can't get immediate medical attention, apply an antibiotic ointment or honey to the burn to prevent infection while waiting for help.
Step 6. Brew calendula tea
Calendula also known as marigold is an herbal remedy that is beneficial for minor 1st degree burns. Simply steep 1 teaspoon of calendula flowers in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Once filtered and cooled, you can soak the burn or apply a cloth soaked in tea to the surface of the skin. If you have calendula oil, and not the leaves, dilute 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of this oil in 1/4 cup of water. You can find calendula cream at a nathuropathy store or clinic. Apply calendula cream 4 times a day until the burn heals.
Research also shows that green tea is beneficial for burns
Step 7. Soothe the burn with raw onion juice
While it smells bad and may make your eyes water, onions are known to soothe burns. You just need to cut a few cloves of onion and rub it gently on the wound so that the juice absorbs without causing any pain. Repeat this step several times until the wound heals, and make sure to always use fresh onions.
Step 8. Protect the burn
When left untreated, damaged skin must be protected from infection. Pat the burn dry, then cover it with clean gauze. Glue or bandage so it doesn't slide off easily, and change it every day until the skin looks back to normal. Check daily for signs of infection, such as fever, skin redness, and discharge of pus. If you see these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.