Skip to content

First Aid & Emergencies

Thermal Burns Treatment

Call 911 if:

  • Burn penetrates all layers of skin
  • Skin is leathery or charred looking, with white, brown, or black patches
  • Burn blister is larger than two inches or oozes
  • Hands, feet, face, or genitals are burned
  • The person is an infant or a senior
  • Cover loosely with sterile, nonstick bandage or, for large areas, a sheet or other material that that won’t leave lint in wound.
Font Size
A
A
A

  • Burn penetrates all layers of skin
  • Skin is leathery or charred looking, with white, brown, or black patches
  • Burn blister is larger than two inches or oozes
  • Hands, feet, face, or genitals are burned
  • The person is an infant or a senior

For All Burns

1. Stop Burning Immediately

  • Put out fire or stop the person's contact with hot liquid, steam, or other material.
  • Help the person "stop, drop, and roll" to smother flames.
  • Remove smoldering material from the person.
  • Remove hot or burned clothing. If clothing sticks to skin, cut or tear around it.

2. Remove Constrictive Clothing Immediately

  • Take off jewelry, belts, and tight clothing. Burns can swell quickly.

Then take the following steps:

For First-Degree Burns (Affecting Top Layer of Skin)

1. Cool Burn

  • Hold burned skin under cool (not cold) running water or immerse in cool water until pain subsides.
  • Use compresses if running water isn’t available.

2. Protect Burn

  • Cover with sterile, non-adhesive bandage or clean cloth.
  • Do not apply butter or ointments, which can cause infection.

3. Treat Pain

  • Give over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve).

4. When to See a Doctor

Seek medical help if:

  • You see signs of infection, like increased pain, redness, swelling, fever, or oozing.
  • The person needs tetanus or booster shot, depending on date of last injection. Tetanus booster should be given every 10 years.
  • Redness and pain last more than a few hours.
  • Pain worsens.

5. Follow Up

  • The doctor will examine the burn and may prescribe antibiotics and pain medication.

For Second-Degree Burns (Affecting Top 2 Layers of Skin)

1. Cool Burn

  • Immerse in cool water for 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Use compresses if running water isn’t available.
  • Don’t apply ice. It can lower body temperature and cause further damage.
  • Don’t break blisters or apply butter or ointments, which can cause infection.

2. Protect Burn

  • Cover loosely with sterile, nonstick bandage and secure in place with gauze or tape.

3. Prevent Shock

Unless the person has a head, neck, or leg injury, or it would cause discomfort:

  • Lay the person flat.
  • Elevate feet about 12 inches.
  • Elevate burn area above heart level, if possible.
  • Cover the person with coat or blanket.

4. See a Doctor

  • The doctor can test burn severity, prescribe antibiotics and pain medications, and administer a tetanus shot, if needed.

First Aid A-Z

  • There are no topics that begin with 'O'
  • There are no topics that begin with 'Q'
  • There are no topics that begin with 'U'
  • There are no topics that begin with 'X'
  • There are no topics that begin with 'Y'
  • There are no topics that begin with 'Z'

Today on WebMD

Antibiotic on hand
Slideshow
3d scan of fractured skull
Slideshow
 
Father putting ointment on boy's face
Slideshow
Person taking food from oven
Q&A
 
sniffling child
Slideshow
wound care true or false
Slideshow
 
caring for wounds
Slideshow
Harvest mite
Slideshow
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

WebMD the app

Get first aid information. Whenever. Wherever... with your iPhone, iPad or Android.

Find Out More