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Take Care When Treating Burns at Home


By Staff Writer

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Sun Burns

A burn is damage to body tissue that's caused by heat, sun exposure, chemicals, or electricity. First-degree burns are the least severe type¾causing pain and redness, but no blisters. Second-degree burns have blisters along with pain and redness. Third-degree burns cause the most skin damage and often appear white or black and charred with no blisters. You can take care of first- or second-degree burns at home, if chemicals, sun exposure, or heat causes them and if they're no more than three inches wide. Call for emergency help as soon as possible if the burn is large, severe, or caused by electricity. Home treatment for burns includes using an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin® or Polysporin® and then covering the affected area with a sterile gauze bandage. Clean the burn gently with warm water once daily and then reapply an antibiotic ointment and a fresh bandage. This will protect the area and help prevent an infection. Blisters may form after a burn but don’t break them. If they break open by themselves, wash in warm water with mild soap, then apply the antibiotic ointment and gauze bandage. Anesthetic products containing benzocaine (Americaine®) or lidocaine (Solarcaine®) will reduce burn pain. Oral painkillers like ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®), naproxen (Aleve®), or aspirin will reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) will reduce pain, but not inflammation.

Sources: Drug Facts and Comparisons. Facts & Comparisons, 2007.Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 2000.The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition. Merck & Co., 1997.Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. William Morrow & Co., 1996.Swartzberg, J. E., S. Margen. The UC Berkeley Wellness Self-Care Handbook. Rebus Inc. 1998.This answer prepared 6/7/01. This information updated 2/7/2007.

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