Even a Little Burn Hurts

Burns are a common injury, and even the little ones you get at home – from the stove or oven, handling hot water, grabbing tools that have been out in the sun – can cause quite bit of pain and discomfort. You can manage them with some simple first aid treatment and follow-up, however.

The first step to soothe the immediate pain of a burn as well as minimize future pain is to cool the area surrounding the burn as quickly as possible. You don’t want to apply ice or ice water though, as this can cause shock and a rise in body temperature that can actually make it worse: instead, run cool water over the burn for 10 to 20 minutes until the pain begins to recede. Alternatively, you can soak it in a bath of cool water or apply a cold washcloth.

You may have heard that butter, egg whites, or greasy substances such as lotions or creams should be used to soothe a burn, but in reality they trap the heat in the skin, so avoid them. Your doctor may recommend an antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection, but it’s best to call them first.

Next, you should clear the burned area of jewelry, especially items such as tight rings, and restrictive clothing. The burn will likely swell, and it may begin right away, so try to do this quickly. If fabric or jewelry is sticking to the skin when you pull it away, however, stop and call for emergency help – this is a sign of a more serious injury.

Just like any other wound, keeping the injured area clean is important. Gently wash the area with soap and water and apply bandages, but avoid those with individual fibers, which can stick to the burned skin. Change bandages regularly and apply antibiotic ointment as needed.

You can help manage pain with over the counter pain medication like ibuprofen: these are generally sufficient at managing the minor pain of a burn and keeping swelling at bay. Many people also find relief from aloe vera gel, which is often used for sunburns but can soothe other types as well, and moisturize the skin to help it heal.


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