Search Health Information
Burns and Electric Shock
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.
There are many types of burns.
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.
The seriousness of a burn is determined by several things, including:
Burns affect people of all ages, though some are at higher risk than others.
Burns in children
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.
A child's 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. Self-inflicted burns will require treatment as well as an evaluation of the person's emotional health.
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 treatment.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
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 doctor.
Immediate first aid for burns
Prepare for an evaluation by a doctor
If you are going to see your doctor soon:
Home treatment for minor burns
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:
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 the label.
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 Quitting Smoking.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Most burns happen in the home. Simple safety measures decrease the chances of anyone getting burned.
Home safety measures
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:
Reduce the risk of a lightning strike
In general, 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.
Preparing For Your Appointment
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 following questions:
Last Revised: November 16, 2012
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.