How to Treat a Second-Degree Burn
I reached inside the microwave to grab a bowl of grits. The bowl was much hotter than I expected. I lost my grip and spilled piping hot grits on my forearm that clung to the skin and stuck. I finally managed to wipe the grits off and became transfixed at the sight of my skin peeled away to reveal raw, red flesh underneath. Needless to say, ouch.
While I took a few immediate treatment measures, when my burn occurred, i didn't adopt as aggressive a treatment plan as I could have, and I made a serious mistake by applying something to my burn that only made it worse. Don't make the same mistakes I did; educate yourself and follow proper treatment protocol when you suffer a second-degree burn.
What is a Second Degree Burn?
Second-degree burns are those in which the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer of skin, or dermis, is also burned. Signs of second-degree burns include blisters, reddened, splotchy skin, severe pain, and swelling.
The less serious first-degree burn occurs when the outer layer of skin is burned but not all the way through. First and second degree burns can be treated as minor burns, as long as they are smaller than 3 inches in diameter and do not occur on the face, hands, feet, groin or buttocks or on a major joint. Burns that meet these criteria should be treated as major and need medical attention.
Third-degree burn are the most serious and cause permanent tissue damage, even affecting fat, muscle and bone. The burned area may be black or dry and white. Get medical attention right away if you suspect you have suffered a third degree burn; do not try to treat it yourself. Do not take off clothing stuck to the burn and do not apply any ointments or medications or run the burn under water. Cover the burn with a clean cloth or bandage, raise the burned area above heart level and get to the hospital, or call 9-1-1.
How Do I Treat a Second-Degree Burn?
If you have a minor second degree burn, follow these treatment tips for optimum healing. These treatments can be applied to minor first-degree burns as well.
• Cool the burn by running cool, not cold, water over it for about 10 minutes to reduce pain and swelling. Do not put ice on the burn, as this could cause the wound to become too cold and result in additional damage.
• Put antibiotic cream on the burned area for several days. If antibiotic cream is not immediately available, use aloe vera gel or pure aloe straight from an aloe vera plant to cool the affected area and take away the redness and soreness. Consult with a doctor or pharmacist about other ointments to use - antibiotic ointment can typically only be used for a limited of days, as specified on the package.
• Use a sterile gauze bandage, to cover and protect the burn. Don't use cotton balls or other materials that might stick to or get inside the wound. Wrap the gauze loosely so that it does not put too much pressure on the burn, causing additional pain. Change the dressing daily. Wash your hands first, then gently with soap and water wash the burned area, reapply the ointment and wrap the burn in a fresh, dry gauze bandage.
• Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if the pain is too bothersome, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Basic Tylenol and Advil work well. A pain relief medication should only be needed for the first couple of days.
• If pain persists, the wound is oozing, swelling a lot, turning odd colors or not healing, or if you are running a fever, see a medical doctor for treatment. These symptoms could indicate infection.
• Don't break blisters or else they will become more prone to infection.
• Don't apply butter, egg whites or olive oil to burns, despite those old wives tales you may have heard.
Electrical and Chemical Burns
Don't attempt to treat electrical and chemical burns by yourself. Seek professional medical help at once. Electrical burns could create damage to internal organs that might not be visible on the skin. Flush chemical burns with cool water. Take off clothes and jewelry that have the chemical on them and don't apply any medication or ointment to the burn, because a chemical reaction could occur. Wrap the burn with a dry, clean cloth and call 911 or a local poison control center or go to the hospital or your doctor's office.
How to Reduce and Treat Scarring
• Vitamin E oil has long been purported by users to aid in tissue healing when applied topically, although doctors and dermatologists in general say it has no benefit. The vitamin oil should be harmless, but consult with a medical professional to make sure before using. Never apply the oil to an open wound. Wait until the wound has closed and new tissue is growing
• If the burn scabs, let the scab fall off on its own time. I was impatient with my ghastly looking green scab. It was half attached, half detached and I decided to dab witch hazel on it, a natural astringent, to expedite the process. Big surprise, there was a reason the scab hadn't fallen off on its own; it was very much attached to my flesh. I wound up making the wound worse and prolonged the healing process, and now I've got a much nastier scar than I likely would have had otherwise. Don't rush the healing process.
• Don't scratch burned skin, even though it will itch as it heals.
• Burns change color when they are healing - many months after my accident, I still have a reddish nickel-sized raised scar that turns purple when I'm cold. Don't tan for up to a year after the burn, as this could result in further discoloration of the affected area. Cover the area or use sunscreen when out in the sun.
• To treat raised scars, resulting from burns, rub petroleum jelly or another lubricant on the affected area for 15 to 30 seconds several times a day, using firm, but not painful, pressure to promote healing of the scar tissue. Silicone gel sheets, which can be purchased at pharmacies and online, at sites such as Amazon.com, can also reduce scarring. Creams like Mederma, sold at pharmacies, can also be applied to reduce the appearance of scars, once the wound has closed. Dermatologists can also shrink scars with injections of cortisone or laser treatments.
More by this Author
If you frequently feel frazzled and overwhelmed by responsibilities and everyday tasks, this article offers tips for reducing stress and coping.