First Aid for Burns

Burns can be of three types depending on the severity of tissue damage:

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  • First Degree Burns
  • Second Degree Burns
  • Third Degree Burns

First Degree burns

The first degree burns are superficial and mild characterized by swelling and redness of the injured area. The injured area is usually the outer layer of the skin namely epidermis.

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First Aid for First Degree Burns

Remove jewelry and clothing from around the burnt area.

Use cool or tepid water to cool the burnt skin. Run cool water over the area for 10 to 30 minutes.

However, this procedure should be done within 20 minutes of the injury. Alternatively, the burnt area can be submerged in cool water for at least 5 minutes. The cool water prevents the burn from getting worse.

Soothing lotions that contain aloevera can be applied on the burned areas to relieve pain and swelling. You may also apply 0.5% hydrocortisone cream.

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Cover the burnt area with a sterile bandage or a clean cloth or cling film. The cover should be made in a layer over the burn instead of wrapping it around a limb.

A mild painkiller, such as paracetamol, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen, can be taken for relief from the pain. Ibuprofen and naproxen also helps in reducing swelling. However, the correct dosage should be taken.


Do not use adhesive dressings.

Do not use ice, iced water.

Do not use creams, or greasy substances, such as butter to sooth the burn.

Do not break any blisters developed due to the burn.

First degree burns usually takes 3 to 6 days to heal. In case if it is very painful, or seems to be getting

worse, visit a doctor immediately for advice.

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Second-degree burns

These burns usually extends to the middle skin layer namely dermis. These are usually treated in the hospital. However, before hospitalization, the following measures should be taken:

Thoroughly clean the affected area. Thereafter gently dry the area.

Apply antibiotic cream over the affected area.

Keep the burnt body part at an elevated level.

Third-degree burns

These burns usually extends to all the three skin layers destroying adjacent hair follicles, sweat glands, and nerve endings. These burns require immediate hospital care.

Written by: team

Date last updated: August 14, 2015

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