Burns can occur unexpectedly. Steam shooting out from a tea kettle, oil splattering from a pan or a singeing from a hot iron all require quick action to prevent further damage to our skin. Chemical and electrical burns can be the most serious. There are some basic steps to take for any kind of burn but there are others to take depending on the size and type of burn.
Immediate action to take:
1. Immediately run cool (not cold) water over a minor burn for 10 to 15 minutes. Using ice on a burn is not recommended as it could cause more damage.
2. Never put butter or other oil on a burn. After cooling and gently washing a burned area, you may apply a soothing lotion then cover loosely with a gauze dressing. Change the dressing daily.
3. Blisters with fluid in them may form but do not break them, they are protecting the skin underneath. If they do break on their own, wash with soap and water and dry them. Use a topical antibiotic ointment, cover with a gauze dressing to keep the area clean and change the dressing daily.
How burns are classified:
1st degree: The surface of the skin (epidermis) is damaged but still unbroken so there is protection from infection. Sunburns are often first degree burns and can be treated with cool compresses and topical moisturizing cream. Some people swear by Aloe Vera and other alternative treatments. First degree burns take about three to six days to heal.
2nd degree: Damage has occurred through the first layer (epidermis) to the second layer (dermis) so are called partial thickness burns. Blisters are a sign of second degree burns and they may fill with fluid. Blisters may erupt, grow into each other and if nerves are exposed they can be very painful. Less severe 2nd degree burns will heal in one to three weeks; more severe burns can take more that three weeks to heal.
Risk of infection becomes greater without the protection of the outer skin but a small second degree burn (size of a quarter) can be taken care of with just close monitoring.