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How to treat burns

Burn treatments vary depending on how severe the burn is. Here are a few tips on how to deal with them.

A burn victim will require different type of care depending on the type and extent of their injury. Burns vary greatly from a common, fairly harmless sunburn to a potentially life-threatening 3rd degree burn caused by open flames. Here's how to distinguish the three different types of burn injuries and how to care for each:

1st degree burns are usually accompanied by redness and some swelling of the skin

  • Treat a minor burn by first cooling the affected area. You can do this by running the injury under cool water for at least 10 minutes. If running water is not available place the burn in a container of cold water such as a bucket, tub or even a deep dish.
  • Keeping the burn cool will reduce pain and minimise the swelling.
  • Apply a moisturising lotion or Aloe Vera extract.
  • Finally dress the burnt area with a loosely wrapped sterile bandage.

2nd degree burns will result in a deeper, more intense redness of the skin as well as swelling and blistering

  • This type of burn should be treated just like a 1st degree burn but because the damage to the skin is more extensive, extra care should be taken to avoid infection and excessive scarring.
  • Be sure to replace the dressing daily and keep the wound clean.
  • If a blister breaks use mild soap and warm water to rinse the area.
  • Apply antibiotic cream such as Neosporin to prevent infection before redressing in sterile bandage.

3rd degree burns may appear and feel harmless as the victim may not feel much pain due to complete destruction of all layers of skin and tissue as well as nerve endings. The damaged area may appear charred or ash-colour and will instantly start to blister or peel.

  • If the victim's clothing is on fire, cover him with non-flammable liquid.
  • Dial 000.
  • DO NOT remove burnt clothing from the victim, as this will expose open wounds to the elements and potential infection.
  • If possible, cover the victim's injuries with wet sterile cloth to reduce the pain and swelling. If you notice that the victim is going into shock and loses consciousness, you will need to perform CPR.


For more information on how to treat and care for burn injuries visit:

Information on this page is for general assistance only. Any matter of personal health concerns should be directed to a doctor.

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