I don’t know why, but I always burn myself on cast iron skillets. I’m so used to cooking with pots and pans with ubiquitous cool-to-the-touch handles, and for some reason I hardly ever remember that’s not the case with cast iron. I cook a lot, so I’ve burnt my hands and arms more times than I really care to remember (you’d think I’d learn).
Aside from running the burned area under cold water or applying some aloe vera, I never really know what to do with a burn. At what point is it OK to treat at home and when do you need to go to the hospital? They’re important things to have in your mental first-aid toolbox.
How bad is the burn?
One of the first steps in treating a burn at home is determining how bad the burn really is. Almost everyone has heard of the different “degrees” of burns, and having a rough idea of where a burn lies in the degree spectrum can help you decide on the best course of treatment.
- Many small first-degree burns can be treated at home. First-degree burns only involve the top layer of skin (the epidermis). Minor first-degree burns can cause swelling, redness and pain. If a first-degree burn covers a large area of the skin, especially on the feet, hands, face, groin, buttocks or joints like the knees, shoulder or elbow, then it’s probably a good idea to seek medical attention.
- Some second-degree burns can be treated at home, but a second-degree burn is more serious than a first-degree burn. Second-degree burns can cause splotchy white and red skin, swelling, pain and blisters. If you are treating a second-degree burn and it’s smaller than three inches in diameter, then you can probably treat it at home. Any larger than that, or if it covers the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or major joints, then you need to go to the hospital.
Anything worse than a small first- or second-degree burn needs to be treated immediately by a medical professional.
How to treat a minor burn?
- If you’re treating a small first- or second-degree burn, the first thing to do is cool the burn. Remove any tight items (like rings or other jewelry) and clothing that isn’t stuck to the burn. Burns often cause swelling, so it’s important to gently remove anything that can cause circulation problems if swelling does occur.
- Run the burned area under cool water for 10-15 minutes. If you’re unable to put the burn under running water, then wet a clean cloth with cool water and hold it gently on the burn or submerge the burn in cool water for five minutes.
- If necessary, apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly or aloe vera gel to the burned area and cover it with a soft gauze non-stick cloth.
- If you’re treating a second decree burn with a blister, be careful not to break the blister. If the blister does break, clean the area with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment and cover it with a gauze bandage.
- Any pain from a minor burn can generally be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen.
- If the burn starts to look infected (oozing, swelling, increased pain, redness, and/or fever), then call your doctor.
TapGenes TakeAway: Many minor burns can be treated at home by cooling, keeping the burned skin clean and comfortable and managing pain. If the burn is more severe, then seek medical attention right away.
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