What can/should be done at home
The first step in taking care of any burn is to remove the cause of the burn and then dissipate the heat from the skin. Fortunately, simply running cool water over the burn can accomplish both of these tasks. Despite what your grandmother may have told you, putting butter, grease, or any other lotion or salve on the burn is not a good idea. These methods do not dissipate the heat from the skin well, and, depending upon the type of burn, may actually allow infection to occur. Nor should you put ice on a burn. Ice can actually make the burn worse -- and it can be extremely painful.
Next, after assessing what type of burn it is:
- A first-degree burn requires only tender loving care, acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, and moisturizing lotions to soothe the skin once you have run cold water over the burn.
- A second-degree burn can be handled by first cleaning the burn with mild soap and water, using topical antibiotic ointment, and covering it with a bandage. Any blisters that form should not be broken.
When to get immediate attention
- For a third-degree burn
- For any burn involving the face, hands, feet or groin area
If you are uncertain as to what type of burn you're dealing with, call your pediatrician for advice after you have run the burn under cool water. Most of the time, the doctor will want to assess it in the office. However, depending upon the exact nature of the burn, he or she may be able to assess it over the phone.