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Health Tips: How to treat burns and scalds at home

Have you ever experienced burn at some point in your life? If so, how was it treated? Adults are equally likely to experience  burns in the home, outdoors, or at work. At home, it usually occurs during cooking or handling of hot liquids. Although, severe cases of burns or scalds require a visit to the hospital, sometimes it is possible to safely manage mild cases at home. What are some of the do’s and don’ts of treating burns at home?

Consider the following health tips:

If you cannot tell if a burn is minor or severe, you should see a doctor immediately. He is trained to determine if such could be managed at home or needs immediate medical attention. What are some of the factors that are usually considered? These include:

How much of the skin is involved – is it limited to the outer layer or more?

How widespread the burn is – Does it involve a significant part of the entire body?

What areas are affected- For instance, the face and genitals usually require expert care

Burns are classified by doctors as first, second, third and fourth degree depending on these factors.

Generally, first degree burns which involve small areas and are limited to the outer layer of the skin can be treated at home. In first degree burns, you may see redness, minor swelling and tender skin. Nevertheless, seek help immediately if the following occurs:

  • Fever
  • The affected part becomes infected e.g. smelly, discharging
  • Areas affected are sensitive e.g. face, buttocks, groin and hands
  • Larges or multiple areas are involved
  • Burns are from chemicals or electric shocks

What are some effective home remedies?

Cool water- Running the burn under cool water soothes and prevent further injury. This should be done for about 20 minutes to cool the skin down. Remember to use cool NOT cold water.

Honey– This prevents infection, sterilizes the burn and soothes the skin. Its wound healing properties make it an important home remedy for burns.

Mild soap- This can be used to clean the burn and prevent infection. Do not scrub to prevent further injury to the skin.

Bandages- This may be needed to keep away dirt, flies and other contaminants. However, it is more useful if blisters rupture, exposing deeper layers of the skin. Minor burn cases are best left exposed. Remember to apply the bandage loosely to prevent further injury.

Creams and mositurizers containing  aloe vera have also been reported to be useful.

Pain relievers– You can take over the counter medications to get relief from the tender, painful areas affected. NSAIDS like ibuprofen (taken with meals) are very helpful. You should also avoid exposure to sun, if possible.

Related: How to use honey to treat Cough

What should you avoid?

It is important to avoid things that are ineffective or harmful. Some popular remedies that you should stay away from include:

  • Egg yolk or whites
  • Butter
  • Ice
  • Toothpaste
  • Oils such as vegetable or palm oil

If you are unsure of what to do, seek medical help immediately.  When poorly managed, burns can lead to serious complications.

For pediatric burns, check out this infographic below from the 2016 National burn Injury week:

burns in children


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