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Identifying and treating burns

Burns of every degree can be incredibly damaging to skin. That’s why it’s best to identify and treat them as quickly as possible. Read on to learn more about how you can give your skin exactly what it needs.

Bandaged hand

First-degree burns

These are the least serious burns, as they touch only the outer layer of skin. There may be swelling, redness and some pain. The skin may turn white when pressed and could peel off in a day or two. suggests treating the burn by soaking it in cool water and applying aloe vera cream or antibiotic ointment if desired. If the burn is on your face, hands, feet or genitals, or if it covers a major joint or is over 2 to 3 inches in diameter, see a doctor.

Second-degree burns

The MayoClinic explains that when the burn goes through the first layer to the second layer of skin, a second-degree burn has occured. There will likely be serious pain and swelling as well as a reddened or splotchy appearance. Blisters may also develop. If the burn is under 3 inches, treat it by running the burn under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. This will help draw the heat out of the skin. Alternatively you may apply a cool compress, but do not apply ice. Wrap the burn with a sterile gauze bandage to protect it, and take an over-the-counter medication to ease your pain. If the burn is over 3 inches or is on the face, hands, feet, genitals or over a major joint, the MayoClinic suggests seeking medical treatment. There may be some discolouration in the skin as it heals. To keep the discolouration from increasing, avoid re-injuring the area or exposing it to the sun for at least a year after the injury.

Third-degree burns

Third-degree burns are the most serious, as they involve all layers of the skin. The burn may even go so deep that it touches muscle, fat or bone. Some areas may either appear dry and white, or they may be charred black. If it seems a third-degree burn is present, call 911 immediately. Use a clean, moist, sterile towel to bandage the wound until help arrives. The MayoClinic advises you not to place a large third-degree burn in cold water, as doing so could lead to shock or hypothermia. Once you or the person affected has been removed from the fire or smouldering materials, aim to elevate the burn to above the level of the heart if possible, and avoid removing clothing, as this could further damage affected skin.

To ensure you’re identifying and treating your burn properly, contact a local medical hotline such as Telehealth Ontario or HealthLinkBC to get immediate advice from a registered nurse. And if you feel a trip to the hospital might be necessary, don’t hesitate to seek out appropriate medical attention.

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