What Is the Treatment for Burn Wounds?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 January 2020
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The treatment for burn wounds typically varies depending on the severity of the burn and the number of skin layers damaged. Burn wounds are classified as first, second, and third degree, with first degree being the most minor and third degree the most severe. Treatment for first- and second-degree burns may only require topical ointment and bandaging, while third-degree burn wounds usually require treatment that is more extensive. Third-degree burns may require surgery, skin grating, and life-saving procedures. Other common treatments for all types of burn include the application of cold compresses, pain therapy, and medications to reduce the risk of infection.

First-degree burns affect the surface area of the epidermis, which is the outer layer of the skin. These burn wounds can sometimes heal on their own without the application of ointment or any type of extensive medical care, however, physicians typically urge patients to take steps to accelerate healing and avoid infection. This would include keeping the wound clean and bandaged, and changing the bandages frequently. In most cases, first-degree burns do not require narcotic based pain relievers; rather patients are typically prescribed mild pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. In addition, the application of topical antibiotic ointments are sometimes included as part of the treatment.


Second-degree burn wounds are considered more serious. These burns penetrate the epidermis and extend into the surface of the dermis, which is the second layer of skin. This type of burn usually involves blistering, swelling, and severe pain. Burn treatments recommended for second-degree burns are similar to those used for first degree, with the exception of pain management. In order to ease the pain of a second-degree burn it is sometimes necessary to use cold water washes or cold compresses. In addition, for second-degree burns that cover a large area, narcotic pain relievers are sometimes prescribed.

Third-degree burns penetrate both the epidermis and the dermis, and often go completely through all of the skin tissue to involve bones, muscles, or organs. Patients are usually hospitalized, because treatment typically includes maintaining a completely sterile environment to avoid infection. In addition, depending on the severity and the location of the burn, lifesaving procedures such as amputation or assisted breathing may be required. It might also be necessary to remove healthy skin from the body and graft it over burned regions. Reconstructive surgery may be necessary for third-degree burn wounds because scarring can sometimes be severe.



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Post 3

When I get a burn, the first thing I do is run cold water over it. It has been proven that holding a burn under cold water immediately actually stops skin cells from burning. So it's possible to limit damage this way.

After that, I apply aloe vera gel. Aloe vera gel has a similar effect because it cools and soothes skin. I keep my aloe vera gel in the fridge for an extra cooling effect. I use one with lidocaine which is a topical pain reliever.

This is all I have to do for minor burns. I think acting fast is key to treating burns. The longer one waits for treatment, the worse the burn gets.

Post 2

@ZipLine-- I think different doctors have slightly different ways of treating burns. I'm not a doctor, but as far as I know, if a burn has turned into a wound, it should be covered.

If you just have a sun burn or if you touched a hot pan and the burn has not blistered, you can leave it open because this will help with healing. Plus, covering a fresh first degree burn is very painful.

But if the burn is second or third degree, if it has blistered and the skin is broken with flesh exposed, it needs to be covered to prevent infection.

This is what I know, you should consult your doctor or a pharmacist for the best advice.

Post 1

Should a burn wound be left open or covered? I have a second degree burn and have been looking up treatments online. Some sources say to cover the wound and others say to leave it open and expose it to air. Which is correct?

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