Burns can be caused by fire, the sun, chemicals, heated objects or fluids, and electricity. They vary in severity and can range from minor problems to life-threatening emergencies. Distinguishing a minor burn from a more serious burn involves determining the degree of damage to the tissues of the body. If you are not sure how serious the burn is call 9-1-1.
First-degree burns are those in which only the outer layer of skin is burned. The skin is usually red and some swelling and pain may occur. Unless the burn involves large portions of the body, it can be treated at home.
Second-degree burns are those in which the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer of skin is also burned. In these burns, the skin reddens intensely and blisters develop. Severe pain and swelling also occur. If a second degree burn is no larger than 2 or 3 inches in diameter, it can be treated at home. If the burn covers a larger area, call 9-1-1.
Third-degree burns are the most serious and involve all layers of skin. Fat, nerves, muscles, and even bones may be affected. Areas may be charred black or appear a dry white. If nerve damage is substantial, there may be no pain at all. In these cases call 9-1-1 immediately.
Follow these steps when treating minor burns at home:
Cover the area of the burn with a clean, water-moistened dressing
Apply clean water to dressed burn to cool, as required
Never put any medication on the burn unless a doctor directs you to do so
Do not use creams, lotions, butter, etc.
For major burns, call 9-1-1 and follow these steps until paramedics arrive:
Do not remove any material stuck to the skin
Cover the burned area with a cool, moist, sterile bandage or clean cloth
Do not place any creams, ointments or ice on the burned area