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What is a Burn Bandage?

By Alice D.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A burn bandage has special properties designed to protect a burn victim from infection and fluid loss. Depending on the location and extent of the burn, a burn bandage might be anything from a small gauze pad to a stocking-like garment designed to fit around the body. The bandages are used to hold injured limbs in the proper position and keep the patient as comfortable as possible.

Burns are described as first-, second-, or third-degree burns. First- and second-degree burns cover a small area and only penetrate the first or second layer of the skin. These burns usually can be treated at home and covered with a sterile gauze bandage.

One important function of a burn bandage is to prevent further damage. Bandaging materials that have loose fibers or fluffy, cottony filler that might stick to the wound cannot be used. Wet compresses can be used to provide pain relief on small burns. A burn bandage that is a foam pad soaked with a special moisturizing gel typically is included in special burn first-aid kits. These pads are not adhesive and need to be covered with sterile, gauze-stretch bandages and then secured with adhesive tape.

Third-degree burns are the kind that cover large areas of the body or deeply penetrate the skin. Many hospitals have burn centers to provide specialized care for severe burns. Sometimes a type of burn bandage is used that is impregnated with ionized silver to protect the wound from infection. Silver is an antimicrobial agent, which means that it is an effective treatment against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Bandages soaked in solutions of silver have been used to treat burns for more than 100 years.

A burn bandage for more severe burns needs to provide compression to prevent swelling, as well as to form a barrier against infection. Keeping pressure on the burn area can reduce the amount of scarring. A compression burn bandage can be found to fit any body part. For example, tubing is available in different widths to slide over fingers, toes, or arms; burn gloves can be used to bandage the entire hand; stocking-like garments can be used to cover the torso. These are often used in addition to the more conventional square pads and rolls of bandaging.

Burn first-aid kits and simple burn bandages typically are available anywhere that first-aid supplies are sold. The specialized compression bandages usually are available only through medical supply stores. These special bandages typically should be used only with a doctor’s recommendation and instructions.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Dec 24, 2011

I run a small restaurant and our employees get small superficial burns pretty often while cooking. I keep a big box of aloe vera gel burn bandages in our first aid for this reason. If it's serious, of course we rush them to the ER for treatment, but thankfully that has only happened once.

Being around the stove and fryers all day, small burns are bound to happen from time to time. These skin bandages work really well. It takes away the pain right away. The bandages are coated with aloe vera gel and lidocaine. Aloe vera is excellent for burns and lidocaine relieves the pain. They are such a life saver. I don't know what we would do without them.

By burcidi — On Dec 23, 2011

@ddljohn-- First aid for burns depends on how badly burnt you are. If the burn doesn't have blisters, than it's a first degree burn. If it does, it's either second or third degree which means you need to go to the hospital anyway.

In all of these situations though, it helps to bandage the burn with a dressing of gel sterile water. What this does is that it cools the burn and cuts down on the amount of damage to the skin cells. If it's just a first degree burn, I would hold it under running water for a couple of minutes and then bandage with the gel for a couple of hours.

If it's a second or third degree, do the same until you reach the hospital and the nurses will do their own dressing. As far as I know, all second and third degree burns are dressed with antibacterial gel and bandaged to prevent infections. Since these burns go into the second layer of skin, infection is almost definite.

By ddljohn — On Dec 23, 2011

I thought that we were not supposed to cover burns? I burned myself at work while trying to get a large coffee machine to work and the pharmacist I talked to said to keep the burn open and gave me a burn relief gel. But my burn was just a first-degree.

Are burn bandages only necessary for second and third degree burns because it's more serious and the risk of infection is higher?

How do we know which degree our burn is and if it needs to be bandaged? I want to know more about the treatment of burns in case I'm ever burned again. I don't want to mistreat it and cause an infection.

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