Burns to the skin can occur in many ways.  Burns can be caused by dry heat such as fire, moist heat such as steam or hot liquids, Radiation, friction, heated objects, the sun, electricity, or  chemicals.

Thermal burns are the most common type. Thermal burns occur when hot metals, scalding liquids, steam, or flames come in contact with the skin. This type of burn result frequently from fires, automobile accidents, playing with matches, improperly stored gasoline, space heaters, and electrical malfunctions. Other causes include unsafe handling of fireworks and/or kitchen accidents (such as a child climbing on top of a stove, pulling down a hot pot, or grabbing a hot iron).

Inhaling smoke, steam, or superheated air can cause burns to your airways, or toxic fumes, often in a poorly ventilated space.


There are three levels of burns:

  • First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of the skin. They cause pain, redness, and swelling.
  • Second-degree burns affect both the outer and underlying layer of skin. They cause pain, redness, swelling, and blistering.
  • Third-degree burns extend into deeper tissues. They cause white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb.


































FOR MINOR BURNS First and Second Degree small area not involving the mouth, face chest genitals or circumferentially to the hands or feet.

  1. If the skin is unbroken, run cool water over the area of the burn.  A clean, cold, wet towel will also help reduce pain.
  2. Calm and reassure the person.
  3. After flushing for several minutes, cover the burn with a sterile bandage (if available) or clean cloth.
  4. Protect the burn from pressure and friction.
  5. Minor burns will usually heal without further treatment. However, if a second-degree burn covers an area more than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, or if it occurred on the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint, then treat the burn as a major burn (see below).


  1. Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  2. Make sure that the person is no longer in contact with smoldering materials. However, DO NOT remove burnt clothing that is stuck to the skin.
  3. Make sure the person is breathing. If breathing has stopped, or if the person's airway is blocked, open the airway. If necessary, begin CPR.
  4. Cover the burn area with a cool, moist sterile bandage (if available) or clean cloth. A sheet will do if the burned area is large. DO NOT apply any ointments. Avoid breaking burn blisters.
  5. If fingers or toes have been burned, separate them with dry, sterile, non-adhesive dressings.
  6. Elevate the body part that is burned above the level of the heart. Protect the burnt area from pressure and friction.
  7. Take steps to prevent shock. Lay the person flat, elevate the feet about 12 inches, and cover him or her with a coat or blanket. However, DO NOT place the person in this shock position if a head, neck, back, or leg injury is suspected or if it makes the person uncomfortable.
  8. Continue to monitor the person's vital signs (pulse, and rate of breathing) until medical help arrives.


  • DO NOT apply ointment, butter, ice, medications, fluffy cotton dressing, adhesive bandages, cream, oil spray, or any household remedy to a burn. This can interfere with proper healing and may need to be scrubbed off at the hospital.
  • DO NOT allow the burn to become contaminated.
  • DO NOT break blisters or scrub dead skin.
  • DO NOT remove clothing that is stuck to the skin; just cool the area with water.
  • DO NOT give the person anything by mouth.
  • DO NOT immerse a severe burn in cold water. This can cause shock.














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