Most everyone has suffered a minor skin burn at one time or another. This type of burn can be the result of sun overexposure, scalding from hot liquid, fire, contact with chemicals or even an unfortunate encounter with a faulty electrical outlet.
Before treating, it is important to determine the severity of the burn since different care may be required.
- First Degree Burns – only the top layer of skin is involved and appears reddened. There is no evidence of blistering, but the affected skin is painful and may be slightly swollen
- Second Degree Burns – this type of burn extends into a deeper layer of the skin known as the dermis. Blisters develop, and pain, redness and swelling are common
- Third Degree Burns – the most serious type of burn, this is a full thickness burn involving all the skin layers and causes the skin to appear white, black or leathery. Nerve damage may occur, leading to numbness of the affected area
First-degree burns are the mildest and can usually be treated at home. Start by removing jewelry or clothing near the burn and immediately apply a cold compress or rinse the affected area with cold water to bring down the skin temperature.
Next, gently dry the skin and apply an antibiotic ointment or aloe vera. Don’t apply butter, tea or other home remedies as they can cause infection or skin injury. Over-the-counter pain preparations such as Tylenol may be taken if needed.
A dermatologist or health care professional should evaluate all second- and third-degree burns. Extensive first-degree burns – those affecting the face, major joints or large areas – should also be seen by a dermatologist.
Most minor burns heal within 4-6 days without complications, but all burns carry the risk of infection, tetanus or scarring. If you’ve been burned, it is important to make sure your tetanus booster is up-to-date. Most individuals should receive a booster shot every 10 years.
Report any oozing or increase in redness or swelling to your dermatologist, since these could be signs of infection. Avoid the urge to pick or scratch as the burn heals as this can increase the risk of scarring.
Minor burns typically heal quickly without complications, but proper wound care is vital. Skin that has sustained injury is vulnerable, so be sure to cover it when in the sun or apply SPF 30 sunscreen.