5 Mistakes to Avoid when Treating Burns

5 Mistakes to Avoid when Treating Burns



Summer is here! With Summer comes heat, fireworks, campfires, grilling, and increased risk for burns. Millions of burn injuries occur each year in the United States. Luckily, the majority are minor and require minimal, if any, formal medical treatment. Summer should be filled with fun but if caught in a pinch with a burn, here are a few mistakes to avoid.

  1. Fight Heat with Cold
  2. Contrary to popular belief, the science behind fighting heat with cold is unfounded, and can be dangerous. Ice & cold water can increase pain and burn depth. Mild, cool water or room-temperature water may be used to release the heat from the skin. Be sure to follow with gently cleansing the area with soap and water, and thorough rinsing.

  3. Pop Blisters
  4. Tempting as it may be, fight the urge! Popped blisters create an opening for germs to set up camp and multiply, creating an infection. Signs and symptoms of infection include fever, oozing or pus, swollen lymph nodes (gland-like tissue), red streak from the burn, increased pain, swelling, or redness. Don’t ignore! Seek follow up medical attention if signs and symptoms of infection occur post-burn.

  5. Apply everything but the kitchen sink
  6. First myth on the chopping block, egg whites. Egg whites can be quite dangerous if applied to a burn as uncooked egg carries prime conditions for bacteria to thrive. Alongside the incubator effect, allergies to egg are quite common and can cause immediate, sometimes severe, allergic reactions when applied to broken skin. Avoid the not so egg-cellent whites in the event of a burn.

    Next up, buttering of burns. Butter can slow the release of heat from the skin causing a deeper burn. Save the butter for the dinner rolls, skip it for burns. While in the fridge, go ahead and bypass the sandwich-makings as use of mustard and mayonnaise on burns is also a common myth.

    Additionally, there is the minty fresh myth. Though it may feel fresh, clean, and cool to the mouth, toothpaste can increase risk of infection and some of the chemicals commonly contained in toothpaste could be potentially harmful or irritate the burn wound. In general, use of pastes, oils, creams, and lotions, should be avoided due to risk of infection and irritation. Consult a healthcare practitioner for additional guidance.

    Finally, if a bandage is used to cover the site, do not apply gauze or other covering with fibers as it will get stuck in the burn wound. Ouch!

  7. Seek an antibiotic
  8. Minor burns typically do not require antibiotics. If signs or symptoms of infection occur, seek follow up care. For mild to moderate pain or swelling, non-prescription acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be helpful.

  9. Forget to review tetanus vaccination status.
  10. Burns carry compromised tissue that may be favorable to the growth of Clostridium tetani, a big bad bacteria that creates the byproduct responsible for the Tetanus disease, commonly known as lockjaw. Although rare, Tetanus is a critical disease. It is important to review vaccine history to verify the date of the last Tetanus vaccine. In the event of a burn, or other injury causing a break in the skin occurs, it is recommended to receive a tetanus vaccine booster if not received within the last 5 years. Unvaccinated individuals that fall victim to a burn, should seek immediate medical attention to review if additional preventive treatment is recommended.

    Unvaccinated from tetanus, out of date on the 10-year booster, unsure, or have questions? Be your own advocate and protect yourself. Ask a Pharmacist or Clinic Healthcare Practitioner.

    Different burn classifications include heat, electrical discharge, friction, chemicals, and radiation. Different burns require different treatment. For example, electrical and chemical burns may have injury that is not apparent on the skin and should seek immediate medical attention. Contact a community Pharmacist for additional mild burn treatment guidance or see a Clinic Healthcare Practitioner or your primary healthcare practitioner for evaluation and treatment of minor burn injuries. For moderate to severe burn injuries that include the face, hands, feet, or genitalia, or burns covering large area, call 9-1-1 and/or report to the closest emergency department immediately. If a burn occurs to an infant or elderly individual, consider the burn severe regardless of size.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


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