Taking Care of Burns

Burns are a very common type of injury. Many people are burned while cooking or baking, by the sun, or when handling chemicals. The severity of the burn usually depends on the length of exposure and the strength of the burning agent. Burning agents include fire, hot water, radiation, sunlight, electricity, and chemicals.

It is important that burns are cared for as they can cause infection, leave scars, and predispose you to cancer. Burns with different degrees of severity require different methods of treatment. Learn to classify your burn and treat it properly with the easy tips below.

First-Degree Burns
First-degree burns are the mildest of all burns. They tend to be thin, not reaching far below the skin's surface. First-degree burns are usually pink or red and very sore. Often, they will turn white when you apply pressure. Depending on the person, first-degree burns may swell a bit.

These superficial burns usually heal within 3 to 6 days. Most frequently, the top layer of skin over the burn will peel off in 1 or 2 days, making way for new and healthy skin.

How to Treat First-Degree Burns
Immediately following the incident, soak the burn in cool water to reduce the temperature of the area. When the sting begins to lessen, treat the burn with a healing gel such as aloe vera or an antibiotic ointment. Cover the burned area with a dry gauze bandage, and take some acetaminophen (Tylenol) to ease the pain.

Second-Degree Burns
Second-degree burns are more severe and more painful than first-degree burns. The burn reaches deeper into the skin, burning more layers. These burns usually develop blisters and peeling skin.

Second-degree burns usually heal within 3-4 weeks. If you have a burn that lasts longer than a month, you should see a doctor, as it may be infected or deeper than you originally thought.

How to Treat Second-Degree Burns
As with milder burns, you should immediately soak the affected area in cool water for at least 15 minutes. If the burned area is small put cool, clean, wet cloths on the burn for a few minutes every day.

Dress the burn with an antibiotic cream and a dry gauze pad. Change the dressing every day, and always make sure that your hands are clean and dry as you do so. While you are changing it, inspect the burn for signs of infection such as increased pain, redness, swelling or pus. Do NOT pop the blisters -- it will open your skin up to infection. If you think you have an infection in the burned area, see a doctor right away.

The burn is likely to itch as it heals. Be careful not to scratch it. And additional layer of aloe vera gel will help to alleviate the itchiness.

Third-Degree Burns
Third-degree burns are the most severe as they cause damage to all layers of the skin. Often times, the burned skin will appear white or charred. Many people experience no pain with third-degree burns, as the nerves have been damaged.

Healing time for third-degree burns can vary widely, from a few months to an entire life.

How to Treat Third-Degree Burns
Third-degree burns always require professional care. If you get a severe burn, go to the hospital right away. Never attempt to rip any clothing that is stuck to the burn, and do not soak the burn in water. If necessary, the doctor will perform a skin graft to help cultivate healthy skin and nerves where it has been destroyed by the burn.

Notes on Electrical and Chemical Burns
If you get an electrical burn, go to the hospital right away. The damage from electrical burns is not always apparent from the outside. Have a doctor evaluate you immediately.

If you get a chemical burn, flush the area with water for at least half an hour. Remove all clothing that could have the chemical on it. Never apply anything to area as you could create a harmful chemical reaction on your skin. Then seek professional care.

-- Bailey Stoler

External Links:
Burn Relief
Burn Care First Aid Kits and Products
Sun screen, Sun Block and Sun Protection for home or First Aid Kit

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