Burns: Types and Treatments

How to Treat Burns

Most minor burns can be treated at home, but there are a few exceptions. For example, if the burn is larger than 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) in diameter, consult a doctor. You should also see a doctor if the burn is on your face, hands, scalp, genitals or joint areas, or if you notice any red streaking near the wound. Chemical burns and electrical burns also need to be checked with a medical professional [source: KidsHealth].

With the proper care, most other minor burns eventually will heal on their own. To treat a first-degree or small second-degree burn, begin by removing any scorched clothing, and then soothe the burn by running it under cool water for a few minutes. Don't ice it, though, as extreme cold can further damage your skin. You should also fight the urge to apply ointment, since these products can also hinder the healing process. Instead, just wrap the area loosely with a clean gauze bandage [source: Mayo Clinic]. You can also take aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce pain.

To treat an external chemical burn, rinse the area with water for at least five minutes [source: Mayo Clinic]. If possible, rinse it for longer than that. Also, if the chemical was in powder form, brush it off the skin before using water. Don't shed any burned clothes until you've thoroughly flushed the wound. If the chemical burn is internal, follow the directions on the product's packaging and call for emergency help.

For major burns, the first and most important thing to do is call 911. With a major burn, don't remove the singed clothing because it could be stuck to the skin (although do remove jewelry or clothing that's not attached to the burn). Also, don't immerse large burns in cold water because this could trigger shock. If possible, raise the burn above your heart to decrease blood flow to the area and prevent swelling, and then apply a moist, sterile bandage [source: Mayo Clinic]. Never break blisters, which could lead to an infection.

If you've treated a burn, you're probably wondering how to minimize scarring. Learn how to put your skin on the mend on the next page.