The doctor will ask how the burn occurred and will examine the burned area.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the burn, how deep the burn is, and how much of the body the burn covers. Doctors have methods and charts to estimate the total percentage of body surface area (TBSA) affected by the injury. This estimate is age dependent. For example, the head represents a larger percentage of surface area in a baby than in an adult.
Quick treatment is important and can lessen the damage to the tissues. First aid for minor burns may involve:
Cooling the burn with running water or a cold damp cloth. Do not use ice—this may result in more damage to the skin.
Do not use butter, grease, oils, or ointments on the burn.
Cover the burn with sterile gauze or a clean cloth.
Do not use a fluffy cloth such as a towel or blanket.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Do not break or pop any blisters.
This may result in an infection.
If you see signs of an infection, get medical attention. Signs of infection include:
Oozing of pus
Once a minor burn is completely cooled, you can consider using a fragrance-free lotion or moisturizer to prevent drying and make the area more comfortable.
For more serious burns, like deep partial-thickness or full-thickness burns, seek medical attention or call emergency medical services. Until an emergency unit arrives:
Do not take off any clothing that is stuck to the burn.
Make sure the victim is not near, or in contact with, any smoldering materials or exposed to further smoke or heat.
Do not soak the burn in water, but you can cover the area with a cool, moist sterile bandage or clean cloth.
As with any severe injury, make sure the person is breathing and administer
A doctor will decide if hospitalization is necessary based on many factors. These include age, the cause of the burn, and the extent and depth of the burn. Reasons to hospitalize a person who has more than a minor burn may include:
Age: younger than five years or older than 55 years
Suspected child abuse
Very small, deep burns on the hands, face, eyes, feet, or perineum (groin/genital area)
Extensive burn: using TBSA and age charts
Burns that may require complicated dressing changes, elevation, or continued physician observation
High-voltage injury or burn
Suspected or known inhalation injury
Other medical problems that predispose a person to infection, such as:
Most burns are the result of accidents. To help reduce the chance of burns:
about fire prevention and keep dangerous materials out of reach.
Make sure smoke detectors are installed and in working order. Replace batteries twice a year. One way to remember to do this is to change the batteries the same days you change the clocks for daylight savings and standard times.
When cooking, keep pot handles turned toward the back of the stove.
Supervise young children in the kitchen and around fireworks.
Set the temperature on the water heater to less than 120° F and test the bath water before your child gets in.
Make sure children’s sleepwear is flame-resistant.
Don’t hold children in your arms or lap while cooking, serving, or eating hot foods or liquids.
Do not leave matches, lighters, candles, or burning cigarettes unattended.
Wear protective gloves and clothing when handling caustic chemicals.
Put protective covers on electrical outlets.
Do not wear loose-fitting sleeves while cooking.
Keep children and pets away from the stove while cooking.
Make sure electrical cords are not hanging over the edge of countertops.
Store chemicals and cleaners in a locked cabinet.
Children younger than one year can sustain partial-thickness burns from hot seat belt straps or buckles in car seats. Make sure car seats are not hot before putting a child in the seat. If you park in the sun, cover the seat with a towel.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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