Hot Spot Healing: How to Treat Minor Burns

Fire is a double-edged sword. While it’s necessary for survival, it can also injure or kill you in a flash. With this in mind, it’s important for you to have the necessary skills to treat injuries sustained from a fire gone bad.

Wild fire

There are many cases where things can go wrong and fire thrown into the mix can make things exponentially worse. Natural disasters like tornados and earthquakes can cause fires. Lightning can set a tree in flames and send burning bits your way. Even a small slip around a campfire meal can burn or scald a leg.

According to the American Burn Association, there were 486,000 burn injuries recorded in the U.S. in 2016. Burns and scalds are common injuries– most of us have had a minor burn or scalding at least once, from getting sunburned to spilling a hot drink on one’s lap, or getting too close to the grill.

Learning what to do and the proper way of doing it during such incidents can help minimize the damage, and possibly save a life.

Know the difference

Burns differ from scalding mainly because of their heat source—burns are from dry heat, while scalding is from moist heat (such as boiling water or steam,). Depending on the severity, burns can be commonly classified into the following:

1. First Degree
This type of burn only affects the superficial or outermost layer of the skin. The skin will appear reddish and slight pain can be associated with the burned area. Sunburn is a common example, and this type of burn usually heals within 1 – 2 weeks.

“Sunburn” caused by too much exposure to the sun is the most common example of a first-degree burn.

2. Second Degree
The damage extends from the outermost layer to the next inner layer. Second degree burns cause blistering and swelling. If left unattended, infection may occur.

3. Third Degree
Also known as “full thickness burns”, this type is characterized by stiff leathery skin and creates permanent damage to the dermis and epidermis, causing scarring and contracture.

4. Fourth Degree
This type of burn goes through the entire layer of skin and into the layer of muscle and even bone. It creates significant impairment and can also lead to death.

Knowing the type of burn, as well as the cause, you can provide a more effective method of treatment that’s suited for the injury.

First aid

Immediately take off the source of the burn. Allow cool clean water to run over the affected area, or submerge it in clean water, to lower the skin temperature around the burn, provide immediate comfort and lessen further damage. Do NOT use ice or cold water—this can damage the tissue further and slow down healing.

In the case of cold burn (burns caused by low temperatures), soak the affected area in warm clean water (104˚F- 108˚F) for 15-20 minutes and wrap in a warm and dry blanket. Repeat soaking in warm water if needed, with 15 minute breaks in-between soaking.

Running cool, clean water over the burned area can help soothe pain, but do not use ice or cold water- doing so can further damage tissue

 

Treatment

Before we go any further, it should be noted that third and fourth degree burns require professional medical care. The same medical attention will be needed for cases like:

  • Severe chemical burns
  • Severe electrical burns
  • Second-degree burn that affects more than three inches of skin
  • Burns on your face, hands, feet, joint, groin or buttocks
  • Infected burn wound
  • Extensive blistering
  • Severe scarring that doesn’t seem to heal

If limited or no professional medical assistance is immediately available, you’ll have to do the best that you can to treat the burn for the meantime and make sure complications won’t arise.

 

  • First degree burns
    This type of burn is the easiest to manage and should heal with minimal treatment. At the onset of the injury, apply first aid and manage the burned area with soothing creams or lotion. Aloe can also be used to make the injury heal faster.

 

  • Second degree burns
    Second degree burns result in blistering, and make the victim susceptible to wound infection. Like first degree burns, the wound should be cooled by letting cool clean water run over the burn, or soaking it in water.  Unless it’s stuck to the skin, clothing and other items such as jewelry around the burned area should be immediately taken off to prevent constriction should the wound swell.Clean the wound and apply sterile gauze over the affected area. Antibiotics may be required in some cases, but in the absence of antibiotics, honey can be applied. Regularly clean the wound and change the bandage.Blisters are expected with second degree burns, and should be left alone to break. Once the blisters break, debridement, or the removal of dead or damaged tissue, may be necessary to remove the excess skin. This makes it necessary to clean the wound it leaves to avoid infection. When cleaning open wounds, make sure to wash your hands first to minimize the chances of infection.

    Don’t try to “pop” blisters caused by burns—doing so can leave them infected and can cause more problems.

     

  • Third degree burns
    Second degree burns over a large area or third degree burns should be handled by a medical professional. But if help is still on its way, there are still a couple of things that you can do to help the victim.Immediately and carefully extinguish or take out the source of the burn. Cover the burned area with a sterile moist cloth to alleviate pain. If possible, elevate the legs and the burned area above the level of the victim’s heart while they are lying flat to prevent shock (DO NOT do this if you suspect that victim has sustained head, back or neck injuries. This is also not recommended if moving the victim will subject them to too much pain and discomfort). Monitor the victim’s heart rate and breathing, and perform CPR if necessary. If the hands or feet have been burned, it may be necessary to keep the fingers and the toes separated with dry and sterile bandages (make sure they are the non-stick or non-adhesive kind).


As something that we use or encounter every day, the risk of fire is always present, along with the threat of burns. Hopefully, these first aid tips will allow you to take the heat and keep a cool head should burn treatment be required.