Minor burns can be caused by any number of factors, from sunburns to spilling hot soup on yourself. Regardless of the case, these injuries all have one thing in common: They need to be treated properly to ensure they heal right. For minor burns, this treatment is usually rather simple. If the burn is more severe, however, more advanced treatment, and even professional medical attention, may be required.

There are a few ways to know whether or not the burn is major or minor. A first-degree burn only affects the surface of the skin and will cause the skin to turn red, swell and become painful. Second-degree burns can also be considered minor burns in some cases. These types of injuries are indicated by blistering.

A major burn does require medical attention. Always seek medical attention if your burn is larger than two inches, is caused by fire, chemicals or electricity, or is on your:

  • Hand or foot

  • Groin or buttocks

  • Face

  • Hip, knee or ankle

  • Wrist, elbow or shoulder

Clean Before Dressing

In the event of a burn, remove any clothing bear the wound that’s not stuck to it. Then, use cool water (NOT ice) to lower the temperature of the burned area; using ice or too cold of water can cause further damage. If possible, hold the wound under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can place a clean, wet cloth on the burn to cool it.

Once you’ve cooled down the burn, you should be able to identify its severity. If it’s a major burn, seek medical attention. Otherwise, gently clean the injury with mild soap and water. Take care not to break blisters, as this can cause infection. Then, apply an ointment like aloe vera or petroleum jelly (not any kind of lotion, cream or butter) to relieve the pain and protect the wound from infection.

Dressing the Burn

If the burn is in a location that may face regular rubbing, touching or pressure, it may be a good idea to dress it. Use a sterile, non-stick pad, optionally with ointment, and lightly tape it or wrap it over the burn. Ensure the pad is not one that sheds fibers, as these fibers can get caught by the burn --- causing further pain and complications. You should change this dressing once every day.

As the wound heals over the next few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity and type of burn, it will likely itch. Be sure to avoid scratching, as that can break the skin. If needed, take over-the-counter medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help control the pain. If you notice the pain getting worse, you get a fever, there is oozing or pus or there are other signs of infection, seek medical attention immediately.

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