First-aid: Minor Burns


It only takes a second.

With the change of weather comes flames illuminating jack-o-lanterns, roaring fire pits, hot ovens, and toasty hearths. One second and you have to rely on your knowledge of burn first-aid.

It happened to me – or my mom, rather. While it was her first time using her fire pit, it was not my son’s first time around fires. Grandma removed the mesh lid with the tool intended for such use, placing the lid askew on the ground, and my son felt the need to fix it–lying it flat on the ground. In doing so, he grabbed the lid with his thumb and another finger, scalding his poor appendages.

Thankfully, Grandma knew just what to do for minor burns.

I dispense this advice to you with fair warning that I am not a medical professional and this is for minor burns. If you encounter burns larger than your child’s chest, call 911. This list does NOT include what to do if you experience electrocution or a chemical burn; in either of those instances, I would also direct you to call 911. 

  1. Remove your child or yourself (heretofore referred to as “the victim”) from the cause. This goes without saying, but you never know, in any given situation, what you may or may not remember to do. 
  2. Remove any jewelry or clothing. Do this before the swelling sets in and take heed so as to be gentle, but swift. CAUTION: Be careful removing clothing–if it is hot, smoldering, or otherwise stuck to the skin, LEAVE IT.
  3. Cool the burn. DO NOT put ice on the wound. You may have the victim place the burn under cool (NOT COLD) running water. Another option is to loosely cover the burn with a loose, clean towel that has been soaked in cool water. Do this for 10-15 minutes, or until the pain subsides.
  4. Do not break any blisters. Should the blisters open on their own, simply clean the area and apply an antibiotic ointment. Some resources, and even our pediatrician, suggested covering the area with a nonstick gauze bandage or even a Band-aid. Our pediatrician suggested doing this so that our son didn’t accidentally pop his blister open, simply causing more discomfort or risk of infection. It goes without saying, but do NOT put the adhesive part of any bandage on the wound.
  5. Separate any burned fingers or toes. Gently place dry cloth between any digits that have been burned.
  6. Applying ointments. Most resources I referenced said NOT to apply any ointments or lotions; however, the burn cream in some first-aid kits has provided great relief from thermal burns while working in coffee shops (she says with experience). Additionally, I have benefited from Dermoplast in recent times. Aloe may work well, too–this is what my mom used on my son. I don’t know where the wives tale of putting butter on burns came from, but DO NOT apply butter to a burn.
  7. Covering the wound. Loosely, with a clean, dry cloth, cover the burn to prevent infection; however, my son’s blister went uncovered because it just wasn’t bad enough to warrant the battle that promised to ensue should I attempt to cover it. If it pops, then we will reassess and probably find the coolest adhesive bandage to apply. Until then, I’ll just have to keep an eye on it.
  8. Relieving pain. I am not one to hand out ibuprofen or acetaminophen for every little thing, but I felt like this burn warranted such an action (if for nothing else than to make my son think it was going to make him feel better). Medicine, or anything if you’re desperate, can sometimes be a great placebo. The kid slept like a champ, and we didn’t even have to sleep with his hand elevated above his heart, although that is, of course, an option.

Once again, as I’m not a medical professional, you may want to do more research on your own. I do hope that this serves as a springboard for you to think about what you would do if you or your child were burned, though I pray that it never happens. A minor burn can happen to anyone no matter how you discuss fire-safety and burn prevention. As careful as you may be, prepare yourself in advance.


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