Burn Treatment and Prevention

Accidents happen, including unexpected burns. Many ordinary things in the home—including bath water, food, appliances, electrical outlets, household chemicals—can cause burns and potentially lead to injury and scarring. According to the American Burn Association, about 500,000 people in the U.S. are treated for burn injuries every year.

Most of these injuries can be prevented by making small changes and taking simple precautions. To prevent burns at home:

  • Do not leave food cooking on the stove top unattended. When boiling water, or soup, always put the pot on the back burner, the farthest away from the edge of the counter. This will prevent children from grabbing the handle. A scalding burn from boiling water can lead to serious injuries.
  • Lock up flammable liquids and harsh chemical cleaning supplies. It is best to store them outside of the home, out of children’s reach, and away from heat sources.
  • Protect your child from tap water scalds. To prevent scald burns, adjust your water heater so the hottest temperature at the faucet is no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.9 degrees Celsius).
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children—locked and out of reach.

Unfortunately, burns happen but there are immediate steps to take following a burn.

  • Soak the burn under cool running water.
  • Do not rub a burn as it may increase the likelihood of blistering.
  • If there is no fluid or discharge coming from the wound, cover the burn with a sterile gauze pad or a clean, dry cloth.
  • If the injured area is seeping fluid, cover lightly with a sterile gauze and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
    • Note, if sterile gauze is not readily available, cover wound with a clean dry cloth or paper towel. It is important to cover the open wound so it will not be exposed to dirt or bacteria which can lead to further infection.
  • Do not put butter, grease, or powder on a burn! These home remedies can make the injury worse and increase the likelihood of infection.
  • If redness and pain continue for more than a few hours, this could be more serious than a superficial burn, so one should consult a physician immediately.
  • All electrical burns and burns of the hands or mouth should receive immediate medical attention as these areas are more prone to complications.
  • Chemicals that cause burns can lead to serious complications because they may be absorbed through the skin and cause other symptoms.
  • If a chemical burn occurs, wash off the chemicals immediately. Then call the Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) or your healthcare provider for further guidance.

Accidents happen! Burn injuries are common, but simple changes and precautions can help us prevent these accidents. If a burn occurs, immediately run it under cool water, then assess and dress the wound accordingly. If pain continues or wound is seeping, contact your medical provider for further guidance and treatment.