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Most burns are minor injuries that occur at
home or work. It is common to get a minor burn from hot water, a curling iron,
or touching a hot stove. Home treatment is usually all that is needed for
healing and to prevent other problems, such as infection.
many types of burns.
Breathing in hot air or gases can injure your lungs (inhalation injuries). Breathing in toxic gases, such as
carbon monoxide, can cause poisoning.
Burns injure the skin layers and can also injure other parts of the body, such
as muscles, blood vessels, nerves, lungs, and eyes. Burns are defined as
first-, second-, third-, or fourth-degree, depending on how many
layers of skin and tissue are burned. The deeper the burn and the larger the
burned area, the more serious the burn is.
seriousness of a burn is determined by several
Burns affect people of all ages, though some are at higher
risk than others.
Babies and young children may have
a more severe reaction from a burn than an adult. A burn in an adult may cause
a minor loss of fluids from the body, but in a baby or young child, the same
size and depth of a burn may cause a severe fluid loss.
age determines how safe his or her environment needs to be, as well as how much
the child needs to be supervised. At each stage of a child's life, look for
burn hazards and use appropriate
safety measures. Since most burns happen in the home,
simple safety measures decrease the chance of
anyone getting burned. See the Prevention section of this topic.
When a child or
vulnerable adult is burned, it is important to find
out how the burn happened. If the reported cause of the burn does not match how
the burn looks,
abuse must be considered and resources for help, such as social services, offered. Self-inflicted burns will
require treatment as well as an evaluation of the person's emotional
Infection is a concern with all burns. Watch for
signs of infection during the healing process. Home
treatment for a minor burn will reduce the risk of infection. Deep burns with
open blisters are more likely to become infected and need medical
Check your symptoms to decide if and
when you should see a doctor.
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Most minor burns will heal on
their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your
symptoms and promote healing. But if you suspect you may have a more severe
injury, use first-aid measures while you arrange for an evaluation by your
If you are
going to see your doctor soon:
You may be able to treat second-degree burns at home.
First-degree burns and minor second-degree burns can be painful. Try the
following to help relieve your pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Some doctors suggest using skin lotions,
such as Vaseline Intensive Care or Lubriderm, on first-degree burns or
second-degree burns that have unbroken healing skin. These skin lotions can be
used to relieve itching but should not be used if the burns have fluid weeping
from them or have fresh scabs. An antihistamine, such as Benadryl or
Chlor-Trimeton, can also help stop the itching. Read and follow any warning on
When a first-degree burn or minor second-degree burn is
2 to 3 days old, using the juice from an aloe leaf can help the burn heal and
feel better. Applying the aloe juice may sting at first contact.
It is important to protect a burn while it is healing.
Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood
supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
Most burns happen in the home. Simple
safety measures decrease the chances
of anyone getting burned.
Your local fire department is a good resource for more
information on how to prevent fires, make a fire escape plan, use fire safety
devices, and provide first-aid treatment for burns.
Teach children safety rules for
matches, fires, electrical outlets, electrical cords, stoves, and chemicals.
Keep in mind
child safety considerations. Prevention tips for children include the following:
avoid placing camping tents under tall trees, near bodies of water, or on the
highest hill in an area. Seek shelter in a covered area, such as a car, if you
get caught outdoors in bad weather. If no shelter is available, lie on the
ground in a ditch or take cover in a thick grove of trees, where lightning
striking a single tree is unlikely.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
December 27, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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