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URMC / Burn & Trauma Center / Burn Center / Hot Tips: First Aid for Burns

Hot Tips: First Aid for Burns

Safety and Prevention

What should you do if you or a family member is burned? Most burns heal without scarring, but all require immediate care. If you are burned, follow these steps to protect your skin:

  • Stop the Burning Process: Rinse the burn in cool water, do not use ice. Use the closest garden hose if you're outside.
  • Remove Clothing: Remove clothing from the burned area. If clothing sticks to the skin, leave it there and cut away the remaining fabric.
  • Remove Jewelry: Take off rings and jewelry from burned areas that may swell.
  • Cover Burned Area: Place a clean, dry bandage, including gauze pads or a clean sheet. An oozing burn can be covered as well and seek medical attention.

Caring for a Burn at Home

  • Wash the burned area gently with liquid soap daily.
  • Change bandages daily.
  • If a blister breaks, ask your doctor for an antibiotic ointment to use, and cover the treated area with sterile gauze.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT use butter, grease, creams, sprays, burn ointments, or powders to treat a burn. Use pain medication as directed by your doctor.

When to See a Doctor

Burns are classified by degrees:

In general, you should seek help for all 3rd degree burns and large 2nd degree burns, as well as for burns suffered by children and older adults.

Signs and Symptoms to Watch for

Always call the Urgent Burn Clinic if:

  • A blister exceeds two inches or oozes
  • Redness and pain last more than a few hours
  • Pain gets worse instead of better
  • Face, hands, feet, or genitals are burned
  • Burned skin is charred or white
  • A burn was caused by an extremely hot substance, a chemical, an explosive, or electricity
  • A burn becomes infected or you notice increased redness, swelling, discharge, or a bad odor