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As for all minor wounds, superficial burns require particular care to promote healing and prevent complications.
A superficial burn is often described using the term "first-degree burn". It affects the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. The skin appears dry, red, and is painful. When pressed down with a finger, the skin turns white. In most cases, superficial burns heal in three to six days and do not leave a scar.
A superficial burn can sometimes cause small lesions on the skin, such as blisters. Healing sometimes takes longer if the skin is broken. The appearance of a scar is possible.
Most superficial burns are minor and can be treated at home. However, more serious burns require immediate medical care. This text only focuses on superficial burns and does not address the management of second or third degree burns.
The care to be applied to a minor burn can be divided into five steps. Steps one and two are interchangeable.
After having removed the element that has caused the burn (i.e. scalding coffee), rinse the skin with cool water for a maximum of 5 minutes. A gentle stream of water is preferable. Cool compresses can also be applied for up to 30 minutes.
Use a gentle soap (ideally fragrance-free) and warm water. Next, dry the wound by gently dabbing it using a clean cloth or towel. It is not necessary to disinfect the wound. The use of alcohol, iodine, hydrogen peroxide or any other disinfectant holds no advantage. Then, clean the skin daily and with each dressing change.
A burn is a lesion that is at risk of infection, especially when the skin is broken. To prevent infection, it is recommended to apply a topical antibiotic. Carefully follow the product manufacturer’s instructions or those given by your pharmacist. If the wound is covered with a dressing, the antibiotic should be applied at the time of the dressing change.
Not every minor burn requires to be covered with a dressing. This step is especially necessary if the skin is broken. In this case, a dressing made of sterile gaze can be used. The dressing should be changed once or twice a day.
Once the burn seems to have healed, applying a moisturizer can help the skin to regain all of its elasticity. Choose a quality moisturizer that is fragrance-free and that does not have superfluous ingredients. Your pharmacist can recommend an adequate moisturizer.
A minor burn can cause discomfort or pain. An analgesic or an anti-inflammatory drug can be taken, but speak to your pharmacist first. Ask him/her to help you choose the best-suited product for you.
If you feel itching following a burn, consider using a medication. For example, taking an oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine could be beneficial, especially at night. Some topical products can also be useful. Ask your pharmacist to indicate which ones.
It is important not to scratch, as this can compromise healing and increase the risk of infection.
Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about how to care for superficial burns.
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