- Minor burns are a common home injury. Most can be treated with simple first aid care.
- Antibiotic ointment, aloe vera gel, honey, and OTC pain relievers can help treat minor burns.
- Never use butter, oil, egg whites, toothpaste, or ice to treat burns. These increase the risk for infection.
Minor burns happen for many reasons and can easily be treated at home. However, it’s important to know which home remedies help and which can increase the risk for infection.
In this article, we’ll talk about beneficial home remedies, such as cool compresses and aloe vera, as well as what to avoid, like butter and egg whites. We’ll also discuss how to know whether a burn requires medical treatment.
Best Home Remedies for Burns
Burns are a common household injury. First-degree burns (the most minor type) only affect the outer layer of skin and can easily be treated at home as long as the burn is less than three inches in diameter. Second-degree burns go deeper into the skin layers and are more commonly associated with blistering. They can also typically be treated with home care if they are smaller than three inches.
Larger burns or those that affect all layers of the skin, known as third-degree burns, need medical care. If you are unsure whether your burn needs medical attention, consult a healthcare provider.
If your burn is small and minor, the following home remedies can be used.
When you get a small burn at home, the first thing to do is run cool water over the area for several minutes. Then cleanse with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly. Make sure the water is not too cold.
After rinsing and cleansing a minor burn, you can apply a cool compress for additional relief. Use a clean wet cloth and apply to the affected area for 5-15 minutes at a time. Using compresses for too long can further irritate the skin.
After cleaning the burn area, apply first aid antibiotic ointment or cream. This can help prevent infection by coating the skin and preventing bacteria or dirt from entering the wound. Place a sterile bandage over the area. Wash and change the bandaging a few times a day or if the bandage gets wet.
Aloe vera is a popular home remedy for sunburns. It may also help to soothe first- and second-degree burns.
After cleansing the burn, apply pure aloe vera to the affected area. If you use a store-bought aloe vera product, check the ingredients. Do not use anything that contains fragrance or other irritants that may make it harder to heal. Reapply aloe a few times per day or as needed for relief.
Honey has natural antibacterial properties. For minor burns, you can apply honey directly to the skin after cleaning.
Reduce sun exposure
Exposing a minor burn to direct sunlight can further aggravate the skin. If you need to be in the sun, cover the burn area with a sterile bandage or clothing.
Over-the-counter pain relief
Over-the-counter (OTC) NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can help to reduce the pain, inflammation, and swelling of a minor burn. Always follow the appropriate dosage and instructions.
Home Remedies to Avoid
The internet is full of natural remedies that, in some cases, may be harmful. Some home remedies are also passed down through generations that may not be evidence-based and could worsen the burn or cause infection.
Butter traps heat and may contain bacteria that could enter the skin and lead to infection. It also could worsen a burn and increase pain.
Similar to butter, oil can trap heat, prevent skin from breathing, and lead to bacterial contamination. Even oils that are good for skin hydration are not intended to care for burns or wounds, so avoid using them on broken or injured skin.
A long-standing myth, egg whites do not contain special nutrients to help burns heal. They do, however, contain bacteria and may lead to infection. They are also an allergenic food. For some people, when proteins from foods enter the body through broken skin, it can contribute to the development of or worsening of a food allergy reaction.
Placing toothpaste on burned skin can trap heat, irritate the skin, and lead to infection.
Cool water can soothe burned skin, but cold water and ice can irritate the skin. Ice placed directly on skin, whether burnt or not, can also cause a cold burn, damaging the top layers of the skin.
If you get a second-degree burn, blisters are likely to appear shortly after and during the healing process. It may be hard to resist, but do not pop blisters. Doing so reopens the wound and can lead to bacterial infection. If blisters cause concern after a burn, seek medical care.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Here’s how to tell if your burn needs care from a medical professional:
- It is larger than three inches
- The wound is very painful
- The injured area develops a smell
- The burn is on the face, buttocks, or groin
- You are concerned that you have a third-degree burn
- The wound looks dark red
- You develop a fever
- Your last tetanus shot was more than five years ago
Never treat a third-degree burn at home, even if it is small. These burns can lead to more serious complications like infection and shock. They may also damage underlying nerves.
If you get burned at home from an electric shock, even if you think it’s small, seek emergency medical care or call 911. These burns may not appear severe but can damage deeper layers of skin.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Current knowledge of burn injury first aid practices and applied traditional remedies: a nationwide survey. (2016).
The Role of Skin Barrier in the Pathogenesis of Food Allergy. (2015).
Vaseline and burns. (2003).