How To Treat A Hand Burn Immediately After It Occurs
Falling prey to a hand burn can occur at any time during a variety of activities. From cooking to ironing clothes, a burn should be cared for immediately after it happens to prevent infection. Suffering from a hand burn can result in a minor injury that is treatable in the comfort of your home, to severe where medical treatment is needed immediately.
Types of Burns
Three types of burns range upward based on severity. Let’s define each of the three along with its severity.
- First-Degree – these burns are minor, and it only involves the outermost layer of the skin. This means that the skin remains intact, for example, a sunburn is a first-degree type of burn. When burned, the skin can appear red and feel warm or hot to touch causing pain.
- Second-Degree – affects the second layer of skin called dermis. Characteristics involving this type of burn are very red, blister formation, significantly painful and it swells. If the burn is smaller than 2-3 inches, it can be treated at home as a minor burn would be. Anything larger or on a delicate area such as the face should be treated by a professional to avoid potential permanent disfigurement or loss of function.
- Third-Degree – is the most severe type of burn. Regardless of the size or area that is affected, it is a profoundly serious burn that must be treated by a healthcare provider immediately. The victim is at risk of having permanent tissue damage due to the involvement of all skin layers. With a third-degree burn, the skin can appear charred, white, blackened, dry or leathery.
Treating the Burn
Whether the burn is minor or not, you should seek medical attention soon after it occurs. While waiting to be seen by your healthcare provider, there are some things you can do at home to alleviate the burn. To treat a first-degree burn, here’s what you can do:
- Cool it down by holding the burn under cool running water for five minutes or longer if you please. Using a cold wet compress will also help. Do not use ice, this could damage it rather than help.
- Immediately but gently remove any type of jewelry or clothing worn near the burn before it swells. This includes rings, bracelets, necklaces, and watches.
- Apply lotions containing aloe vera or moisturizing components over burn area (if small) to prevent drying and provide relief from discomfort.
- Take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen to help reduce pain and swelling. If the medications do not relieve the pain, let your doctor know.
- Cover the burned area with a sterile gauze bandage or clean cloth wrapping it loosely to avoid putting pressure on the tissue. Do not use cotton at all.
Things to Avoid
Some things can slow healing, increase the risk of infection, or cause further damage to the skin. These include:
- Using butter on the burn. A home remedy that is said to help but on the contrary, it makes the burn worsen. These types of remedies cause heat to remain trapped in the tissue, which will slow healing.
- Do not break blisters (something many people are tempted to do). When you break the blister, you are exposing the wound to possible infection. If it does accidentally break, clean with water.
- If the ointment you are using causes a rash, stop using it. Let the healthcare provider know.
- Do not wait to seek medical attention. Especially if the burn is larger than the size of the victim’s palm.
- Avoid using ice because it can irritate the area due to its coldness. Also, it can potentially cause a cold burn.
The time in which a burn heals depends on the severity of it. A minor burn takes several days to completely heal. Anything more than minor can take a minimum of two weeks for healing; some cases take several weeks. During healing keep a lookout for the following:
- Redness that extends beyond the burn area.
- Any changes in the wound’s appearance.
- A fever that is not relieved by over-the-counter medications.
- Foul smell coming from the burn.
- Increased pain/discomfort around the area.
- Fluid or pus that oozes from the wound.
All of these can be a sign of an infection happening on the wound. It is important to let your healthcare provider know about these signs to receive an antibiotic ointment for the burn. They can also determine if the infection is serious enough for hospitalized treatment or if it can be treated at home.
During healing, it is also common to experience itching in the affected area. Help minimize the itch, maintain the skin hydrated by applying lotion frequently. If itching severely persists, taking Benadryl (an over-the-counter medication) might be helpful. Make sure you are consistent with keeping the healing wound clean by doing daily dressing changes.
Taking care of the area does not end after it heals, there are things you should do after healing. For example, try to keep out of the sun as much as possible. Your burn may experience sensitivity to the sun. If you need to be outside, try to make sure you follow these:
- Use sunscreen, it keeps most rays from the sun out. However, do not solely rely on sunscreen as protection. This is one of a few layers of protection.
- Try to choose the best time to be outdoors. The sun is at its worst between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- If you cannot avoid the time, try to stay under the shade while outdoors.
- Wear protective clothing such as loose clothing, dark clothing, dry fabrics, among several others.
- Do not rely on a cloudy day to be outside. 80% of UV sun rays are capable of penetrating clouds.
- Use protective gear such as sunglasses and hats.
For further concerns or questions that may arise prior to or during the initial burn or healing process, contact your healthcare provider.