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How can I Treat Minor Burns?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Minor burns, sometimes called first-degree burns, or minor second-degree burns, tend to be most noticeable because they are most painful at the onset. More severe burns do so much damage to the skin and nerves under the skin, that they may not even hurt initially. They can hurt later on as they heal, but if you note a significant burn that doesn't hurt, is pure white in color, and covers a large area of space on the skin, this is at least a second-degree burn and requires treatment from a medical professional.

For minor burns, there’s a simple method for treatment. First, don’t apply ice to the burn, since this can damage skin tissue. Instead, to treat minor burns you can either run cold water over the burn, when possible, or soak the burned area in cold water. You should plan on using running water for about 2-3 minutes at least, or plan on soaking the burned area for about five minutes. You can repeat this soaking a few minutes later if the burn remains uncomfortable.

For small burns, a little soak may be all you need. If you’ve burned a little more of your skin, say for example, the tip of a finger, many people treat these kinds of burns by applying aloe vera gel after the soaking process. Don’t use oils or petroleum jelly, or cover the burn in butter. This tends to act as a sealant, increasing the amount of heat you feel and actually making you more uncomfortable. You may also want to treat a minor burn with a little antibiotic cream, some of which have topical pain relievers. Cover the burn in a bandage, or with gauze.

If you need to treat minor burns that have resulted in blisters, don’t pop the blisters. Simply follow the steps above. If large blisters develop, it is likely a more serious burn. You should probably see a doctor, especially if the burn doesn't hurt.

Sometimes when you treat minor burns, you may notice a blister develops in a day or two. Simply watch these for any signs of infection, like swelling at the site, yellow or green pus oozing from the burn or increase in pain. Burns are injuries vulnerable to infection so it's important to keep them covered and clean at all times.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon310226 — On Dec 20, 2012

Witch hazel is great on sunburns.

By JessicaLynn — On May 09, 2012

I have to second what the article said about going to the doctor for a second degree burn. Even if you know how to treat burns at home, a second-degree burn requires a doctors care!

Also, I just wanted to say that there is a good reason a second-degree burn turns white and doesn't hurt: several layers of your skin have been burned off! That means that the nerve ending are gone, so that's why it doesn't hurt. However, it's still a medical issue and could get infected!

By ceilingcat — On May 08, 2012

@indemnifyme - I've never used the butter method either. I definitely stand by aloe vera as an at-home remedy for minor burns though. It even works if you have a sunburn!

When I was growing up, my mom always kept a few aloe vera plants in the house. The first time she showed me how to treat a minor burn, she used kitchen scissors to snip off a piece of aloe vera. Then she cut it open, and used the aloe vera gel that was in the middle of the piece.

It worked wonders, and I've been using aloe vera for burns ever since.

By indemnifyme — On May 08, 2012

There are so many home remedies for how to treat minor burns. I've heard the butter one a lot, but it never sounded quite right to me. Now that I've read this article, I know I was right not to use butter. I can't believe it actually acts as a sealant! That is not what I want to do to a minor burn!

I usually use the cold water method if I burn myself a little bit. I run the burn under cold water as soon as it happens, and usually it really helps. I also like to use an antibiotic ointment on the burn, even if it is only minor. I think there's still a small risk of infection, which I definitely don't want to have happen.

By SarahSon — On May 07, 2012

In the summer I always keep a big bottle of aloe vera gel around to apply to sunburns. This has an immediate cooling effect, much like it would be to run cold water over the burn.

Some of our sunburns have been bad enough that they blister and these can be sore for many days. This usually requires patience to give the burn time to heal.

Just a few hours in the sun without sunscreen can result in a sunburn for many people. This can be a miserable feeling that can last for several days depending on how severe the burn is.

I just keep applying aloe vera gel every chance I get. It seems like the more often I can use this, the faster the burn heals.

By John57 — On May 06, 2012

A few years ago I was introduced to using therapeutic grade essential oils for healing and home remedies.

I will use lavender essential oil to treat a minor burn. I keep a bottle of this in the kitchen because this seems to be where I get most of my burns.

I have burned my fingers when removing something from the oven or microwave, or even if I get too close to steam coming from the stove.

As soon as I feel the heat of the burn, I apply a few drops of the lavender oil directly on the burn. I keep doing this every few hours and it is amazing how quickly the burn will heal.

This can be used on any type of burn and you should get the same healing results.

By honeybees — On May 05, 2012

There are different ways of treating minor burns at home. One of my favorite ways is to apply some honey to the burn and cover it up with gauze.

My husband burned a large part of his arm on a welder and he immediately poured some honey on the burn and kept it covered.

He works outside, so keeping it covered so it wouldn't get infected was crucial. He also kept it covered at night because the honey is sticky and would get all over everything.

This burn looked pretty bad at first, but by keeping the honey on it for at least a week, it never blistered or left any kind of scar.

Honey contains natural antibiotic properties, and has been used as a burn and wound healer for thousands of years.

By bagley79 — On May 05, 2012

@ddljohn - For me it depends on how large the burn is. If I just have a hot water burn on the tip of my finger, then I don't usually worry about covering it up.

If the burn is larger than that, I like to keep it covered up during the day with some antibiotic cream on it.

I keep it uncovered at night so the wound has some exposure to air and I don't have to worry about the bandage coming off if I am tossing and turning.

By bear78 — On May 05, 2012

@sevenseas-- For a very small minor burn, dehydration isn't really an issue. But for large burns, people can even die from dehydration. So what you said is right for more serious burns. It's necessary to drink more fluids. Obviously, it helps to get proper hydration in general no matter how bad the burn is.

@ddljohn-- I agree with you and I might keep a minor burn open the first day. But I usually cover it up after that if it's a blister burn because I work with my hands and risk of infection is high. I also don't want to get the burn wet, so gauze does help in that regard.

Sometimes I burn my hand so lightly that I don't even need to do anything other than keep it in some cold water. By the way, do we know how cold water helps? If I put the burn in cold water immediately (in a few seconds), I feel like it stops the burning process midway and prevents further damage.

Is there any scientific truth behind that? Or is that just the relief I get from the cool water?

By ddljohn — On May 04, 2012

@anamur-- I'm not a doctor but my mom is a nurse and for minor burns, she always had me keep the burn open. Not only is it less bothersome that way, but it heals faster. You do need to keep it clean though and an antibacterial topical cream is a good idea. But if you apply too much, you can cause the burn to "water" and that can delay healing.

What I do for minor burns is I run cold water on it, followed by an aloe vera gel topical with lidocaine in it. Aloe vera helps quicken healing, it's quite amazing actually. Most of my minor burns disappear in a day or half a day with aloe vera gel. The lidocaine inside also numbs the area so you don't feel pain.

For more serious burns at hospitals, they cover burns with a moisture bandage. It keeps infections out while keeping the burn moist so that it heals properly. But for minor burn treatment that doesn't require hospital care, keeping it open and clean is fine.

By serenesurface — On May 04, 2012

@sevenseas-- That's interesting. I have lemon balm tea (melissa tea) at home. I drink it when I have trouble sleeping. I didn't know that it would help with burns. I'll definitely keep that in mind in the future.

The article has said to keep a burn covered but I can't seem to do that. I got a bad burn while cooking last week on my hand. I did hold it under running cold water for a few minutes and that helped a lot. But when I dried and covered it with gauze, my hand started to hurt really bad and it felt really hot. I had to take the gauze off.

I just let it stay like that and heal on its own. It took about a week for the pain to go away but I didn't get an infection thankfully.

Do you think this is bad? For next time, can I just put antibacterial cream on it and keep it open? That should be enough to protect from infections right? Is it a must to keep it covered while treating a burn?

By anon81420 — On May 01, 2010

thank you. My friend is cured because of your website! thanks again!

By sevenseas — On Mar 22, 2008

Drinking fluids, especially tea helps to relieve pain and to calm the patient. Lemon balm tea is a good choice.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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