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10 October 2017

How to treat a first-degree, minor burn

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (Oct. 10, 2017) — According to dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, first-degree burns are very common and frequently occur after one accidentally touches a hot stove, curling iron or hair straightener. Sunburn can also be a first-degree burn. Unlike second- or third-degree burns, which are more severe, first-degree burns only involve the top layer of the skin. If you have a first-degree burn, your skin may be red and painful, and you may experience mild swelling.

“Most first-degree burns can be treated at home, however it’s important to know what to do,” said board-certified dermatologist Darrell S. Rigel, MD, FAAD, a clinical professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at New York University. “Although first-degree burns aren’t as serious as higher-degree burns, they can hurt quite a bit and can leave a scar if not properly treated.”

To treat a first-degree burn, Dr. Rigel recommends the following tips:

  1. Cool the burn. Immediately immerse the burn in cool tap water or apply cold, wet compresses. Do this for about 10 minutes or until the pain subsides. 
  2. Apply petroleum jelly two to three times daily. Do not apply ointments, toothpaste or butter to the burn, as these may cause an infection. Do not apply topical antibiotics.
  3. Cover the burn with a nonstick, sterile bandage. If blisters form, let them heal on their own while keeping the area covered. Do not pop the blisters.
  4. Consider taking over-the-counter pain medication. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.
  5. Protect the area from the sun. Once the burn heals, protect it from the sun by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing or applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. This will help minimize scarring, as the redness from a burn sometimes persists for weeks, especially in those with darker skin tones.

“First-degree burns usually heal on their own without treatment from a doctor,” said Dr. Rigel. “However, if your first-degree burn is very large, if the victim is an infant or elderly person, or if you think your burn is more severe, go to an emergency room immediately.”

These tips are demonstrated in “How to Treat a First-Degree Minor Burn”, a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series posts to the AAD website and YouTube channel each month.

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 19,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).

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