As a nurse, I am hear many people’s stories of how they have come to injure themselves and how they have treated that injury, prior to seeking medical advice. I consistently see how many people don’t understand first aid for burns.
One of the most common things I hear that is contraindicated for any burn, is to apply butter. I am not sure where this home remedy originated, but unfortunately it does nothing to help control the pain from a burn and it can lead to tissue damage by trapping the heat of the burn next to the skin and increasing the sensation of the burn.
The main focus of burn treatment is to treat the pain and prevent any infections at the site. The first action for a heat, or thermal, burn is to prevent further burning of the tissue by running cold water of the site, for 20-30 minutes. Do not use ice, as this can cause tissue damage. When dealing with chemical burns, water will not stop the burn, instead, contact the National Poison Control Hotline, 800 222 12222.
Next, make sure all jewelry and/or clothing has been removed from the burn site. If the clothes stick to the burn site, then cut around the clothes that can be removed. Be sure to remove any jewelry that could impede circulation, if swelling occurs.
If you are treating the burn at home, because it is minor and there are no signs of infection, use cool cloths to the area, or take frequent cool baths or showers. You can apply hydrocortisone cream to children over 3 and adults and take pain relievers, such as over the counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Other home treatments for minor burns include:
1. Soak a washcloth in equal parts milk and water for a cool compress
2. Add oatmeal 0.5 cup or baking soda to a cool water bath
3. Use calamine lotion for itching once the burn begins to heal
4. Cut a raw potato and spread the juice on the burned skin
If you are planning on seeing a doctor about your burn, cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth and do not cover the area with any lotions or medications.
While a burn is healing it is important to protect it from the cold and heat, because the newly healed skin is very sensitive. This includes protecting it from sunburn, as well.
Always look for signs of infection and contact a health professional right away if it is noted. Do not pick or break any blisters that might occur. If there are breaks in the skin, bandage them with sterile bandages after cleaning the area, carefully and without rubbing the burned skin. Pat dry and place antibiotic ointment on the burned area, before covering with a bandage.
If multiple breaks in the skin or blisters occur, you should seek medical advice as infection and dehydration can arise easily and lead to deadly complications, without early identification and treatment.