Anyone moderately familiar with first aid understands that burns occur in varying degrees. First-degree burns are generally superficial, but can still be quite painful. Plus, if proper treatment is ignored, you can be left dealing with an infection or, worse, a permanent scar.

When a first-degree burn occurs, here’s how you can treat it effectively at home.

Identifying a Minor or First-Degree Burn

First degree burns are most often the result of touching a hot surface, like a stove or a hair appliance. Most sunburns are also first-degree. In these instances, first-degree burns tend to display similar characteristics:

– Only the top or outer layer of skin is affected.

– Redness, often accompanied by heat or a warm sensation.

– Pain.

– Usually small in size, not exceeding three inches wide. Sunburns may be an exception.

– Blistering and mild swelling.

If the following elements are present, you’re dealing with a more severe (second- or third-degree) burn. In these cases you should seek medical attention:

– The burn goes below the surface of the skin to the tissue below.

– Your skin feels dry or has a leathery appearance.

– Your skin has a mottled white, brown, or black appearance.

– Your skin has a charred texture.

If the individual experiencing the burn injury is elderly or an infant, medical care should be sought as soon as possible.

Caring for a Minor Burn

When you believe you’ve experienced a first-degree burn, you should:

1 – Cool the skin by holding the area under cool water or applying a wet compress. Avoid cold water and ice packs. Do this for about 10 minutes, or until the pain starts to go away.

2 – Remove rings and jewelry from the area before the skin starts to swell.

3 – Do not pop blisters. Doing so can increase your risk of infection. Instead, apply an antibiotic ointment to the blistered skin.

4 – Apply a soothing, moisturizing lotion once your skin has cooled. Petroleum jelly or aloe-based lotions are recommended and help prevent skin from drying out. Do this about three times per day, and avoid butter, as it can increase your risk for infection.

5 – Cover the burn in a bandage, preferably nonstick, sterile gauze. Avoid compression bandages or anything tied too tightly around the area.

6 – Use an over-the-counter pain relief solution if the pain and swelling persist.

7 – Keep the area covered from the sun, with clothing and/or high-SPF sunscreen, over the next few weeks. This can help reduce scarring.

8 – Keep hydrated. Especially with sunburns, you risk dehydration.

What to Avoid

As your minor burn heals:

– Avoid applying ice directly to the skin.

– Applying an ointment to the skin while the burn is still hot, as this can trap heat and result in additional tissue damage.

– Consider seeking medical treatment if the burn is larger than your palm or if it won’t fully heal.

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