The skin is the external shield that wraps around the entire length of the body and protects the internal organs from injury and infection. In the event of an injury, external attack, or invasion, the topmost layer of the skin gets affected.
When the skin comes in contact with high-temperature objects, the topmost layer of the skin is damaged as a result. Common accidents including contact with a hot object such as electric hairstyling equipment, spilling hot fluids, and friction burns from treadmill use can cause minor burns.
Minor burns are classified as mild burns that affect less than 10% of the body surface in adults and less than 5% in children. Such burns are superficial and can occur on a daily basis. Minor burns include almost all first-degree (surface) burns that can develop blisters. Minor burns heal over a time period of a few days to some weeks.
Causes of Minor Burns
The first step in preventing yourself from getting a minor burn is to understand the causes. The common causes of burns include:
- Touching hot objects from the fireplace, stove, and kitchen or touching hot hairstyling equipment
- Overexposure to the sun
- Scalds from high-temperature objects touching the skin such as spilled hot beverages, hot foods, hot cookware, hot water during a bath, and steam, among several others
- Minor burns from electric currents or chemicals
Signs and Symptoms of Minor Burns
Minor burns are mostly restricted to the surface layers of the skin and don’t require any emergency care. They present on the skin as:
- Superficial redness
- Painful sensation
- Blisters on the affected region
- An area that has a diameter of about 3 inches
Medical Treatment for Minor Burns
Your doctor will qualify your burn as a minor burn after a close assessment of your condition. Minor burns can be treated with pain killers and topical medications:
- Topical ointments or creams such as Silvadene
- Petroleum-based gauze containing 3% bismuth tribromophenate
- Analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to tame the inflammation and pain
- Antibiotics such as erythromycin or flucloxacillin to keep away infections
Your doctor would also instruct you of the following measures to take care of your wounds to restrict the entry of infectious agents that are likely to delay the healing process.
- As soon as you get a burn, run it under cold tap water or apply a cold compress to dissipate the heat for at least 20 minutes. This is an effective step that can soothe the burn and provide relief for as long as 3 hours after the incidence of a minor burn. Repeat the application once in a few hours to ease the discomfort. However, avoid using ice directly on the skin.
- Keep the affected region of the skin clean to remove the layer of skin that is stripping off.
- Strictly avoid using an adhesive dressing on your burns. Change the dressing often, at least three times a week on a clean uninfected burn to avoid the incidence of infection. An infected burn requires a change of dressing and wound examination every day.
- Once your burn injury has completely healed, keep the burned area covered with clothing to minimize sun exposure of the affected region. You can also wear sunscreen as approved by your dermatologist to avoid exposing your burned skin to sunlight after it has healed up.
Natural Ways to Heal Minor Burns
Many natural remedies can promote healing and minimize the pain associated with minor burns. Minor burns tend to heal within a few days up to 3 weeks.
1. Apply Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has astringent and tissue-healing properties that can help in healing burns. The plant has antibacterial properties that stop bacteria from growing.
A recent study in 2019 showed that aloe vera has been used to prevent skin ulcers and to treat burn wounds.
- Cut a small piece of the aloe vera leaf and extract the gel. Apply the fresh gel directly on the burn. Repeat the application two to three times a day.
- You can also mix 1 teaspoon each of aloe vera gel and turmeric and then apply the mixture on the burn, two to three times a day.
If you do not have an aloe vera plant, you can apply a cream that has aloe vera as an ingredient.
2. Lather Honey
Honey can effectively disinfect wounds and help heal burns, thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also reduces the chances of developing hypertrophic scars.
A 2011 study found honey dressings for minor burns to be more effective than silver sulfadiazine (SSD) dressings.
- Spread honey on a gauze bandage and put it directly on the burn. Change the bandage three to four times a day.
3. Use Boiled Potato Peels
Minor burns can be treated by applying boiled potato peels. Being an anti-irritant, boiled potato peels can be soothing to your burns, helpful in curtailing the pain and the eruption of blisters.
- Run cold water through your burns.
- Boil potatoes. Take out the peel and let it cool. Make sure that the potato peel is dirt free.
- Apply it on the burned area.
- Either keep it open or wrap it in a dressing.
Try to do this as early as possible to prevent pain and blisters, until needed. Boiled potato peels can provide relief within 1-2 days of application.
4. Dab Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can help treat a minor burn when it is cooled and dried.
Coconut oil is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, such as lauric acid and caprylic acid, that offer anti-fungal, antioxidant, and anti-bacterial benefits. This means it helps keep your burn from becoming infected and aids in healing.
A 2018 study highlighted the presence of vitamin E in coconut oil. Vitamin E can help fight oxidative stress, inflammation, and platelet aggregation. Due to this action, coconut oil can be used in treating wounds caused by burns, surgeries, or any other reasons.
- Mix together 1 tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil and a little lemon juice.
- Apply the mixture on the affected area to facilitate healing.
- Repeat the application two to three times a day.
5. Use Green Tea Bags
Various studies have shown that green tea has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. A few studies have also been carried out that demonstrate the beneficial effects of green tea on burn patients.
Green tea can provide relief from the burning sensation and hasten the healing process.
- Soak green tea bags in hot water. Drain out the excess water and place the tea bag on the affected portion of skin.
6. Apply Dilute Lavender Essential Oil
The lavender essential oil has both antiseptic and painkilling properties. The oil also reduces the risk of scarring.
A 2016 study found that the topical application of lavender oil promoted collagen synthesis and differentiation of fibroblasts, accompanied by the upregulation of TGF-β. This means that lavender oil has the potential to promote wound healing.
- Add 5 drops of lavender oil to 2 cups of water. Soak a clean cloth in the mixture and use it as a compress several times. You can also apply lavender oil directly, but using essential oils without diluting them is usually not recommended.
- Another option is to mix a few drops of lavender essential oil in 2 teaspoons of honey and apply the mixture on the affected area a few times a day.
7. Apply a Poultice of Plantain Leaves
Plantain leaves are a popular remedy for burns. They have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
As stated by the University of Michigan, plantain leaves can have a soothing effect on the damaged tissues and help repair the tissue damage.
- Wash some fresh plantain leaves and crush them to make a paste.
- Spread the paste on the affected area and cover it with a cotton cloth.
- Reapply a fresh poultice when the plantain paste dries out.
Anecdotal Remedies for Minor Burns
The following remedies are neither backed by scientific evidence nor are they reviewed by our health experts. Nonetheless, a number of general users have reported an improvement in their condition using these anecdotal remedies.
1. Apply a Thin Layer of Toothpaste
Toothpaste has been used as a remedy for minor burns on the skin. For toothpaste to be used, the burns shouldn’t have left the skin open. Toothpaste can help alleviate associated pain and irritation. It also prevents the wound from opening up.
- As soon as a covered burn develops, apply a fine coat of toothpaste over it. Do this once or twice only. Continuous application of toothpaste can result in irritation owing to its strong chemical composition.
2. Wrap the Area with Aluminum Foil
Although men of science are quite skeptical about the use of aluminum foil on minor burns, people have upvoted its use as a remedy. The idea behind its use is that aluminum foil, being a conductor of heat, will diffuse the heat from your skin to the air. It will also keep your wound covered and also help reduce the pain.
- Cool the burn before applying the tinfoil to minimize the heat. Use cold water or aloe juice on the minor burn. Let the cold temperature seep in for 10-20 minutes.
- Pat the burn dry with a clean cotton cloth. If the burn is weeping, use a sterile cloth and apply an antibiotic ointment, honey, or colloidal silver.
- Take an aluminum foil, with the shiny side facing outward and wrap it on the affected region. If the burn is painful, keep some ice on the outer surface of the foil.
- Keep it for some hours. Several users have sided with keeping it overnight to reap the best results.
3. Immerse the Burned Area in Egg Whites
Egg whites have been used as an old wives’ remedy in several households. This is due to their ability to draw out heat from the body parts.
On these grounds, the cold whites can help drain the heat from the burn and their nutritional richness can help repair the damaged tissues. This remedy has been specifically used for minor burns that result from household cooking.
- Let the burn cool down by running cold water over it for 10-15 minutes.
- Crack an egg or two as required in a bowl. Carefully separate the egg white from the yolk.
- Drench the burned area with egg whites, using either a pastry brush or a paper towel soaked in the egg whites.
- Let it sit for 20 minutes and then wash it off.
- Make sure the eggs you intend to use are not infected with salmonella. To sidestep this red flag, do not use egg whites on broken skin.
- Dodge this remedy if you have an allergy to eggs.
4. Use Soy Sauce
Kitchen burns are the most common type of minor burns that are not taken care of. These can be treated using kitchen ingredients such as soy sauce.
Soy sauce is commonly used as a flavoring agent in several recipes; it can help reduce the pain and keep away the formation of blisters as documented by users.
The ritual is very simple. Just wash your burns under cold water and then soak them in soy sauce for 30 minutes.
5. Coat the Burn with Yellow Mustard
Yellow mustard can provide relief from the pain and irritation of minor burns. It also promotes the flow of blood to the affected region to speed up the healing process.
- Wash the burns under cold running water.
- Coat the surface of the affected skin with yellow mustard.
- Do this as required to get relief from the pain.
6. Use a Flour/Cornmeal Paste
The usual flour that lies in your kitchen cabinet can be used to keep away the formation of burn blisters on the skin. This is an effective remedy to minor burns caused by a tiny splash of oil during frying.
The external coat of flour on the burn will absorb the moisture, protect the skin from irritants and infection, and hasten the healing process. However, refrain from using this remedy on severe burns.
- To 2 tablespoons of wheat flour, add 1-2 teaspoons of honey. Mix the ingredients thoroughly until you achieve a thick smooth consistency.
- Apply this paste generously over the burned skin.
Complications Regarding Minor Burns
The scar tissue that forms over the burned region is part of the healing process. However, minor burns that have not been taken care of or have been in poor condition for a long time can be infected.
Burns can expose your skin to infections and increase the incidence of microbial entry into the body. The transmission of bacteria from the broken skin into the bloodstream can lead to sepsis. Sepsis can have adverse effects on the entire system of the body.
Prolonged sepsis can have fatal consequences, such as shock and organ failure in serious cases of infection.
Minor burns that are deep can cause scar tissue to overgrow.
When to See a Doctor
It’s important to recognize when a burn can be treated at home and when you need to seek medical care. You should seek help from a doctor if:
- A burn is spread over an area of more than 3 inches diametrically.
- Your face, buttocks, hands, or groin is burned.
- The affected region is painful and smelling.
- You have a temperature higher than normal.
- You have signs of a third-degree burn, such as white or blackened, charred skin that might be numb to the touch.”
- You have had your last tetanus shot 5 or more years ago.
- Avoid applying butter and petroleum jelly to a burn as it may trap the heat instead of drawing it out.
- It is believed that applying ice directly can bring relief, but it is usually not recommended as it tends to slow the healing process.
- If the wound develops blisters, don’t break the blisters as doing so may increase the risk of infection.
- Do not use adhesive dressings on the wound.
- Protect the burn from friction and infection.
- Avoid re-injuring or tanning the affected area.
Minor burns can occur several times in our daily lives. Minor burns do not go deep into the skin and hence can be treated with standard medications. Alternatively, several home remedies can be used to provide natural relief from minor burns.
However, a severe burn calls for immediate medical intervention and should not be self-diagnosed.
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