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First Aid Overview

First Aid for Burns

While some burns can be easily treated in the home, serious burns require immediate medical attention and first aid.

Causes: Contact with intense heat, chemicals, electricity, or radiation (including sunlight)

To apply emergency treatment, you must first determine the degree of the burn:

  • First degree: red or discolored skin, mild swelling and pain

  • Second degree: deeper burn, red skin and blistering, more severe swelling and pain

  • Third degree: white or charred (black) skin, skin layers destroyed, lack of pain, bleeding

First- and Second-Degree Burns:

  1. DO NOT burst blisters. DO NOT put pressure on burn area. DO NOT use antiseptic sprays, ointments, butter, or other home remedies.

  2. Remove constricting clothing and jewelry.

  3. Immerse burned area in cool (not ice) water for at least 10 minutes. For facial burns, apply clean towels soaked in cold water.

  4. Cover burned area loosely with clean gauze or cloth.

  5. Seek medical attention for burns on the face, genitals, hands, or feet.
Third-Degree, Chemical, or Electrical Burns:
  1. Call for EMS

    Until EMS arrives:

  2. DO NOT remove shreds of skin or burst blisters. DO NOT apply antiseptic spray, ointment, butter, or other home remedies. DO NOT remove adhered particles of clothing, but be sure all clothing is extinguished.

  3. Remove constricting clothing and jewelry.

  4. If burn is from a chemical, remove contaminated clothing and place victim under shower of cool water for at least 5 minutes.

  5. Check airway, breathing, and circulation (see ABCs). If breathing stops, see rescue breathing. If no signs of circulation, see CPR.

  6. Cool burned area with clean, cool water. However, do not cool more than 20 percent of an adult's body or 10 percent of a child's body at a time, due to the risk of hypothermia or shock.

  7. Cover burned area lightly with sterile nonadhesive dressing or clean, dry towel.

  8. Elevate burned area higher than level of heart. If burn is on face, keep victim sitting up.

  9. Observe for shock (see shock).

To learn more about first aid and emergency care, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.