Home Safety First Aid for Burns: Immediate Steps to Take for Quick Relief
First Aid for Burns

First Aid for Burns: Immediate Steps to Take for Quick Relief

by Martha Simmonds

Burn injuries can occur unexpectedly and can range from minor to severe. Knowing how to administer first aid can be crucial in minimizing damage and facilitating a quicker recovery. From scalding hot water to a mishap with a chemical, burns can have various causes including thermal, chemical, electrical, and radiation sources.

Identifying the Degree of Burns

Burns can be categorized into three degrees, each varying in severity:

  • First-degree burns are superficial burns affecting the outermost layer of skin. They typically cause redness, minor inflammation, and pain.
  • Second-degree burns penetrate deeper, affecting both the epidermis and the upper layer of the dermis. These burns may cause blisters, redness, severe pain, and swelling.
  • Third-degree burns are full thickness burns affecting the deeper tissue. The skin may appear charred, white, or leathery, and the area might be numb.

General First Aid Steps for Burn Injuries

Administering first aid in the aftermath of a burn incident requires quick thinking and decisive action. Here are some general steps that can be followed:

Step 1: Assess the Situation

  • Safety First: Ensure your own safety before attempting to help others. Ensure that there is no ongoing threat (like fire, chemicals, or live electricity) that might endanger more people.
  • Evaluate the Burn: Quickly determine the type (thermal, chemical, electrical, radiation) and degree (first, second, third) of the burn. Assess the size and the area of the body that has been affected.
  • Check for Other Injuries: Ensure there are no additional injuries or complications such as smoke inhalation or shock.

Step 2: Call for Help

  • Emergency Services: If the burn is severe, do not delay in calling emergency services. Provide clear information regarding the location, the number of victims, and the type of burn.
  • Gather Information: If possible, gather information on the cause of the burn, especially in cases of chemical or electrical burns, as this information may be critical for first responders.

Step 3: Initial Care

  • Protect Yourself: Use gloves or a barrier to protect yourself, especially if you need to come in contact with the victim’s wounds or body fluids.
  • Comfort the Victim: Keep the victim as comfortable as possible. Encourage slow, deep breaths and keep them covered but not overly warm.

First Aid Specific to Burn Types

Different types of burns require specific first aid approaches:

First Aid for Thermal Burns (Heat or Fire)

  • Cool the Burn: Gently run cool (not cold) water over the burn area for 10-20 minutes. Do not use ice, as it can damage the skin further.
  • Protect the Burn: After cooling, cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick bandage or clean cloth. Avoid applying adhesive tapes directly on the wound.

First Aid for Chemical Burns

  • Rinse and Remove: Immediately use running water to rinse off the chemicals from the skin. Continue rinsing for at least 20 minutes, ensuring that the water doesn’t flow onto unaffected parts of the body.
  • Remove Contaminated Clothing: Carefully remove any clothing or accessories that might have come in contact with the chemical.
  • Seek Immediate Help: Chemical burns can continue to damage the skin even after the initial contact, so seeking immediate professional medical attention is crucial.

First Aid for Electrical Burns

  • Ensure Safety: Before touching the victim, ensure the power source is turned off to avoid further injuries.
  • Call for Help: Electrical burns can cause internal injuries that aren’t immediately visible. Call emergency services immediately.
  • Begin CPR if Necessary: Monitor the victim’s vital signs and start CPR if they are unresponsive or have difficulty breathing.

First Aid for Radiation Burns (Sunburn)

  • Cool Down: Encourage the victim to take a cool bath or shower. You can also apply a cool, damp cloth to the affected area.
  • Hydrate and Soothe: Ensure the victim stays well-hydrated by drinking water. Apply aloe vera or over-the-counter creams to soothe the skin.
  • Protect from Further Exposure: Keep the victim covered and protect the skin from further exposure to the sun.

What Not to Do

Administering first aid for burns requires not only knowing what to do but also understanding what actions can potentially cause more harm. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Avoid Using Ice: Applying ice directly to a burn can lead to further damage to the skin and delay the healing process. Instead, use cool running water to soothe the area.
  • Don’t Pop Blisters: Although it might be tempting, popping blisters can expose the wound to infections. Allow them to heal naturally and seek medical advice if necessary.
  • Avoid Adhesive Bandages: Placing adhesive bandages directly on the wound can lead to irritation and possible further damage upon removal. Opt for sterile, non-stick dressings.
  • Skip Home Remedies: Refrain from applying home remedies such as butter, toothpaste, or oils to the burns. These can introduce bacteria and hinder the healing process.
  • Avoid Tight Dressings: When covering the burn, ensure that the bandage is not too tight, allowing the area to breathe and swell if necessary.
  • Stay Clear of Contaminated Water: Ensure that the water used to cool the burn is clean to prevent potential infections.

When to Seek Professional Medical Assistance

Recognizing when to seek professional assistance is essential for effective recovery from burn injuries. Immediate medical care is crucial for severe cases such as third-degree burns, extensive second-degree burns, and burns on sensitive areas like the face, hands, or genitals. Special attention is needed for chemical and electrical burns, as well as for burns affecting vulnerable populations like infants and the elderly. It’s important to seek help if there are signs of infection, persistent pain, or breathing difficulties.

Additionally, if the burn is a result of negligence or malpractice, consulting a burn injury attorney can be beneficial. Click here to contact a burn injury attorney for tailored advice. This approach ensures timely and comprehensive support for burn victims, addressing both health and legal concerns.


Administering first aid promptly and correctly can significantly impact a burn victim’s recovery. By assessing the situation, understanding the type of burn, and following the correct first aid steps, you can provide immediate relief and potentially prevent further complications. Remember that professional advice is essential in the case of severe burns and should be sought without delay.

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