First Aid for Burns
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Smart Kitchen is not a doctor, medical site or a Trauma Center. Our burn advice is just that advice. If you have ANY WORRIES OR QUESTIONS, use your judgment and contact a doctor or call 911.


For general knowledge, there are three degrees of burn severity: First, Second & Third.

First-Degree Burns impact the epidermis (the first layer of skin) and are red and painful. They swell a little. They turn white when you press on the skin. The skin over the burn may peel off after 1 or 2 days. A typical first degree burn could be a sunburn or a scalding. If a first- or second-degree burn covers an area larger than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, or is on your face, hands, feet or genitals, you should see a doctor right away. Often quick treatment can help reduce the ultimate consequences of a first degree burn. Over the years chef’s have learned to soak a first degree burn in cool (not cold) water for 3-5 minutes, and then treat it with a skin care product like aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment. To protect the burned area, you can put a dry gauze bandage over the burn. If it troubles you, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Second-Degree Burns are deeper, thicker burns, which damage the epidermis and reach into the dermis (the second layer of skin). Second Degree burns frequently have painful blisters and the burnt skin will be very red or splotchy. There may be significant swelling. If you have a second degree burn, contact your doctor. It may help, as soon as possible after the burning, to soak the burn in cool water for 15 minutes.

If the burned area is small, put a cool, clean, wet cloth on the burn for a few minutes every day. Then put on an antibiotic cream, or other creams or ointments prescribed by your doctor. Cover the burn with a dry nonstick dressing. Check with your doctor’s office to make sure you are up-to-date on tetanus shots. Change the dressing every day.

Check the burn every day for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, swelling or pus. If you see any of these signs, see your doctor right away. To prevent infection, avoid breaking any blisters that form. Burned skin itches as it heals. Keep your fingernails cut short and don’t scratch the burned skin. The burned area will be sensitive to sunlight for up to one year.

Third-Degree Burns cause damage through all the skin layers. The burned skin looks white or charred. These burns may paradoxically cause little or no pain because the nerves themselves have been damaged. Third-degree burns require immediate emergency medical attention. Do not put butter, oil, ice or ice water on third degree burns. This can cause more damage to the skin.

For third-degree burns, get to the hospital right away. Don’t take off any clothing that is stuck to the burn. Don’t soak the burn in water or apply any ointment. You can cover the burn with a sterile bandage or clean cloth until you receive medical assistance.