What Should I Know About Burn Injuries?

In 2016, 486,000 individuals across the United States needed medical treatment after a burn injury. Burns can cause pain, swelling, and blistering at the affected area, and serious burns could require surgery. This guide will help you learn about the most appropriate treatment for various types of burns.

What Not to Do

Taking the proper steps immediately after a burn injury could prevent further damage and promote faster healing. Although butter and eggs are popular home remedies for burns, these have not been proven to be effective, and they could cause an infection. In addition, applying ice to a burn should never be done; ice could lead to additional burns. If clothing has adhered to the burned area, a natural first reaction is to try to remove it. However, peeling away clothing from the injury might also cause the skin to peel away from the site, creating an open wound that needs more complex treatment.

Different Degrees of Burns Require Different Treatment

First-, second-, third-degree, and catastrophic burns have varying levels of severity depending on how deeply the burn penetrates the body. First-degree burns are superficial, and they can normally be treated at home. After holding the burned area under running water for at least 15 minutes, patients with first-degree burns should apply an antibiotic cream to the site, and a loose gauze bandage should be placed over the burn. Second-degree burns often cause blisters, and patients will normally heal without any scarring in two or three weeks. Like first-degree burns, second-degree burns can usually be treated at home, and patients should follow the same treatment steps that are used for first-degree burns. Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen typically provides effective pain relief for first or second-degree burns. Third-degree burns extend through all of the layers of the skin. Char may be present, and the skin may become raised. It often takes on a white, waxy, or leathery appearance. These burns require emergency medical care, including surgery, and patients may need months of recovery. Fourth-degree, catastrophic burns occur when a burn impacts tendons, muscles, or bones, and nerve fibers are destroyed. Patients with these types of burns may need to be placed in a medically induced coma, and amputation is often required.


More than 70 percent of burn injuries occur at home. Focusing on fire safety in the home and taking steps to create safer cooking and bathing areas could prevent these serious injuries. Smoke alarms should be installed on every floor of the home, and these should be checked at least once a month to ensure that they are still working. Smoke alarm batteries usually need to be changed every six months. In the kitchen, cooking should be done on the back burners of the stove when possible, and special care is needed when working with hot oil or a deep fat fryer. To avoid scalds from hot water in the bathroom, experts recommend that the home’s hot water heater be set to a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

While treating a burn at home, patients should check it regularly for signs of infection. A medical evaluation is needed if pain or other symptoms worsen, and patients should contact their doctor if they feel that a burn is not healing properly.

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