What to do

The burn should be cleaned gently with soap and water. Blisters should not be broken. Butter, shortening, or salve should never be applied to the burn since it prevents heat from escaping and drives the burning process deeper into the skin. If the skin of the burned area is unbroken, the burn should be left exposed to the air to promote healing. If the skin is broken, the burned area should be coated lightly with an antibacterial ointment and covered with a sterile bandage. The burn should also be bandaged if it is on an area where it might be disturbed, such as the sole of the foot or palm of the hand. Cool wet compresses may provide some pain relief when applied to small areas of first- and second-degree burns. Ice should never be applied to the burn.

Aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil) may be taken to ease pain and relieve inflammation. In addition, several homeopathic remedies, including Cantharis and Causticum, can assist in burn healing. A number of botanical remedies, applied to the skin, can also help burns heal. These include aloe (Aloe barbadensis), oil of St.-John’s-wort (Hypericum perforatum), calendula (Calendula officinalis), comfrey (Symphytum officinale), and tea tree oil (Melaleuca spp.).

A doctor should be consulted if any signs of infection appear while the burn is healing, including: increased warmth, redness, pain, or swelling; pus or similar drainage from the wound; swollen lymph nodes; or red streaks spreading away from the burn. Minor burns typically heal in 5-10 days with no scarring.