From baking season to basking in the sun, we’ve all felt the pain of a burn. But burn types and severity can vary significantly. Understanding the differences will help determine the best treatment options to ensure your burn heals properly.
Burn causes and types
Accidental burns are the most common household injuries, especially for children. Common causes include thermal burns caused by hot surfaces, liquids or open flames; chemical burns; electrical burns; and excessive sun exposure.
The three primary types of burns are classified by the depth and damage to the skin. Knowing how severe a burn is will determine if you require at-home first aid, urgent care or emergency treatment.
These burns affect only the skin’s surface and usually cause in mild pain, redness and minor swelling. Common culprits are overexposure to the sun, splashes of hot water, small flames and caustic chemicals that are quickly washed off.
Treatment plan: Home first-aid is usually fine, although larger burns should be examined by a medical provider.
They penetrate the second layer of the skin. Along with redness and pain, these burns also cause blisters and more extensive skin damage.
The skin tissue is at higher risk for infection and can take several weeks to heal. Second-degree burns are typically caused by scalding hot water or other liquids.
Treatment plan: A trip to urgent care or your primary care doctor is recommended.
These burns involve all layers of the skin and can cause severe damage, charring and nerve death. Because the skin is so severely damaged, blisters do not develop, and the burns cannot heal without significant scarring.
Third-degree burns can be caused by hot oil, touching hot surfaces or chemical exposure.
Treatment plan: Call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.
Treating minor burns at home
Minor burns can typically be treated at home without seeing a doctor.
- Place the burned area under cool running water for a minimum of 5 minutes.
- Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain.
- Apply lidocaine, an anesthetic, to the area with aloe vera gel or cream to soothe skin.
- Use an antibiotic ointment and loose gauze to protect the burned area.
- If blisters form, don’t pop them. If they do burst, clean the area thoroughly and treat with antibiotic ointment
Sunburn often affects a larger skin area, so you may need to take some extra steps to recover.
- Take cool showers or baths, then pat the skin dry. Apply a moisturizing cream or lotion to prevent moisture loss.
- Cover up with loose clothing when going outside to avoid further damage.
- If the sunburn blisters or peels, clean area carefully and use antibiotic ointment to minimize the risk of infection.
- Drink up. Sun-damaged skin requires water to heal.
Douse the treatment myths
When it comes to treating burns, age-old remedies can do more harm than good.
- Never use ice. It can cause frostbite and make the burn worse.
- Don’t use cotton balls. The small fibers can stick to the burn and cause infection.
- Save the butter, eggs and potatoes for breakfast. They’re not effective treatments when it comes to burns.
Indigo can help
Sometimes, even minor burns may require medical attention. Our friendly providers are available every day from 8 am to 8 pm to provide fast treatment and friendly care. Visit if: your nearby Indigo Urgent Care
- Your burn takes more than a few weeks to heal.
- An infection causes your wounds to seep or weep long after the skin should have healed.
- You have a fever or joint pain.
- You notice new, irregularly shaped or discolored spots. They could be a can be signs of cancerous skin cells.