First Aid: Burns
Call 911 immediately if the person has any of the following:
- Symptoms of shock
- Trouble breathing
- Second- or third-degree burns over a large area, like an entire leg or back.
While you wait for help:
- Reassure the person.
- Treat for shock or provide rescue breathing or CPR, if needed.
1st degree burn (superficial): The injury may look and feel like a mild sunburn.
2nd degree burn (partial thickness): Outer and some of the inner skin layers are burned and usually blister. The injury may be very painful.
3rd degree burn (full thickness): All skin layers are destroyed. Injury looks charred or white. May cause little or no pain.
Seek medical help if any of the following is true:
- Third-degree burns are present, or blistered second-degree burns cover an area larger than the victim's palm.
- The head or neck is burned. The airway or lungs may also be damaged.
- The burn is on the hands, feet, or groin. These areas have little fat to protect them, making damage to muscles and ligaments more likely.
- The victim is over age 60 or under age 5. People of these ages are less able to fight infection.
Step 1. Break contact between heat source and skin
- If clothes are drenched with hot liquid, remove them immediately. Or, stand the person - clothes and all - in a cool shower.
- To smother flames, drop the victim to the ground and roll the body.
Step 2. Cool the burn immediately
The body holds heat and continues to burn until the skin cools.
- Hold the burn under cold running water; submerge the burn in a sinkful of water; or place water-soaked cloths, towels, or sheets over the burn. Add more cold water to the cloth as it absorbs heat from the burn.
- Don't use butter on a burn. Oil seals in heat and may cause infection.
Step 3. Clean the burn
- Lift or cut away any clothing covering the burn. Any cloth fibers sticking to the injury should be removed by a healthcare provider.
- Gently wash small first- or second-degree burns with mild soap and water.
- Don't break any blisters. They protect the burn from infection.
Step 4. Bandage the burn
- Protect the burn with a clean, dry dressing loosely bandaged in place.
- Place a clean, dry sheet or fabric tablecloth over burns covering a large area.