Treating Minor Burns and Scalds

Burns are among the most painful physical injuries - even a relatively minor burn can be very painful! 

Burns are injuries to the skin, caused by direct contact with heat, extreme cold or sunburn. A scald is a burn that is caused by hot liquid or steam.

Most burns heal without any problems; however sometimes marks or scarring can remain. The amount of scarring can be reduced by appropriate care, especially with the first few days. Depending on how serious a burn is, it may be possible to treat it at home but more serious burns will require medical attention for example large or deep burns, all chemical and electrical burns. 

To Treat a Burn:

  • Remove any clothing or jewellery that is close to the burnt area of skin, but do not remove anything that is stuck to the burnt skin.
  • Cool the burn with cold or lukewarm water for 10-30 minutes. Do not use ice, iced water or any creams or greasy substances.
  • Cover the burn - ideally with cling film. Apply cling film in layers, rather than around like a bandage, to prevent it causing pressure if the burnt area swells. 
  • Use painkillers - eg Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, makng sure that you fully read the Product Information Leaflet included with these, and/or speak with your pharmacist or GP, before you take any medication.  

Mild sunburn, small mild burns, or mild scalds are best left uncovered. They will heal more quickly if left to the fresh air. Even a small blister is best left uncovered to heal. If the blister bursts, you can use a dry, non-sticky sterile dressing. This will soak up the weeping blister and stop dirt and germs getting into the wound. Do not prick any blister or put on an adhesive/sticky/fluffy dressing.

Minor burns with reddened skin and no blisters may be treated with a topical burn ointment or spray to reduce pain.

Sunburn is skin damage, caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much exposure to UV light can make your skin red and painful. This may later lead to peeling or blistering. Sunburn often occurs when the sun's rays are intense, however there is a risk of getting burned by the sun in other conditions - for example light reflecting off snow. A cloudy sky or breeze may make you feel cooler, but sunlight can get through and may still damage your skin.

Mild sunburn usually goes away within four to seven days, however frequently exposing your skin to UV rays for long periods of time increases your risk of developing various skin problems. 

In Cases of Sunburn:

  • If you notice any signs of sunburn - such as hot, red or painful skin - move into the shade.
  • Take a cool bath or shower to cool down the burnt area of skin. 
  • Apply aftersun lotion to the affected area to moisturise, cool and soothe it. Do not use greasy or oily products. 
  • If you experience any pain, Paracetamol or Ibuprofen should help to relieve it (again, please read the Patient Information Leaflet included with any medication, and speak to your pharmacist or GP before taking any medication). 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Watch for signs of heatstroke/exhaustion; these include dizziness, a rapid pulse, or vomiting. 

Always consult your pharmacist or GP in relation to your individual symptoms, and before taking any medication for the first time. If you are taking any other medication, always consult your pharmacist or GP before taking anything else.  


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