First Aid

How to Treat Minor Burns with First Aid? Detailed Guide

Ricky Kambray
Ricky Kambray

Imagine you are cooking dinner and accidentally touching a hot pan or splashing some boiling water on your hand. Or maybe you’re enjoying a sunny day at the beach and forget to reapply sunscreen, resulting in a painful sunburn. Minor burns can happen in various everyday situations and can be pretty uncomfortable.

Knowing how to treat minor burns with first aid can significantly improve your recovery. From cooling the burn to monitoring for signs of infection, there are simple steps you can take to alleviate pain and promote healing.

In this detailed guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about treating minor burns at home. Whether you’ve experienced a minor burn before or want to be prepared for future mishaps, this guide will deliver you the knowledge and confidence to handle any minor burn situation. 

So let’s start and learn how to give your skin the care it needs to heal properly.

First, we’ll go over what minor burns are.

Man bandaging injured arm

What are Minor Burns?

Minor burns are a common injury that can occur in everyday situations. They can happen while —

  • cooking, 
  • ironing, 
  • or even while enjoying a sunny day at the beach. 

Minor burns are usually classified as first-degree or second-degree burns depending on their severity. They typically only affect a small area of skin and can be treated effectively with basic first aid. However, the severity of a burn can vary relying on the extent of the injury and the location of the burn. 

First-degree Burns

First-degree burns are the least severe. These can only damage the top layer of the skin. Examples of first-degree burns include sunburn or touching a hot surface briefly. 

Their signs and symptoms can vary depending on the extent of the injury. The typical signs and symptoms of a first-degree burn include:

RednessThe affected area will appear red or pink.
PainThe burn may be painful to the touch.
SwellingThe area around the burn may become swollen or inflamed.
Dry skinThe skin around the burn may feel dry or tight.

In some cases, first-degree burns may also cause minor blisters to form. These blisters are usually small and may be filled with clear fluid. However, unlike second-degree burns, first-degree burns do not cause lasting damage to the skin and will usually heal within a few days with proper care.

Woman with leg injury sitting by the tree with bleeding wound

Second-degree Burns

Second-degree burns are deeper and more severe than first-degree burns. and can cause damage to both the outer and underlying layers of the skin. The signs and symptoms include: 

BlistersSecond-degree burns can cause large, fluid-filled blisters to form on the skin.
RednessThe affected area will appear red and may be painful to the touch.
SwellingThe area around the burn may become swollen or inflamed.
Wet or shiny appearanceThe skin around the burn may appear wet or shiny due to fluid buildup.
Peeling skinAs the burn begins to heal, the affected skin may peel.

In some cases, second-degree burns can cause scarring or other long-term damage to the skin. That’s why it’s essential to seek medical attention if you have a second-degree burn that covers a large body area, is located on the face, hands, feet, or genitals, or if the burn shows symptoms such as fever, chills, or nausea.

Check out our blog on Why is First Aid Important? to learn about the critical role that first aid plays in saving lives and minimising injury in emergencies.

How to Treat Minor Burns with First Aid?

As we know that most minor burns can be treated effectively at home, let’s explore how to treat minor burns with first aid in detail so that you can take care of yourself or someone else in need.

Close-up of clean water running on hand

Step 1: Cool the Burn

The first step for minor burn treatment is to cool the affected area as quickly as possible. Cooling the burn can help —

  • reduce pain, 
  • prevent further damage to the skin, 
  • and promote healing. 

Here’s how to cool a minor burn: 

Remove the Source of Heat

If the burn was caused by contact with a hot object or liquid, remove the source of heat as quickly as possible to prevent further damage.

Run Cool Water over the Burn 

Keep the affected area under cool, running water or apply wet/cool compresses for at least 10-15 minutes or until the pain subsides. The cool water will help reduce the temperature of the skin and soothe the pain. If you do not have access to running water, you can use a clean, damp cloth to cool the burn.

Do Not Use Ice 

Avoid applying ice to cool the burn, as this can damage the skin and worsen the burn.

Step 2: Remove any Jewellery or Tight Clothing

After cooling the burn, the next step is to remove any jewellery or tight clothing from the affected area. This is important because burns can cause the skin to swell, making it difficult to remove jewellery or clothing later on. 

Here’s what you need to do:

Be Gentle 

If the jewellery or clothing is stuck to the skin, do not force it off; instead, gently try to remove it.

Cut if Necessary 

If the jewellery or clothing cannot be removed easily, you may need to cut it off. Use scissors to cut around the jewellery or clothing to remove it carefully.

Avoid Pulling or Tugging 

Do not pull or tug on the jewellery or clothing, as this can cause further damage to the skin.

Do Not Remove Anything that is Stuck to the Skin?

If anything is stuck to the skin, do not try to remove it, as this can cause further damage, instead, seek medical attention.

Do Not Remove any Clothing that is Stuck to the Burn?

If clothing is stuck to the burn, do not try to remove it, instead, leave it in place and seek medical attention.

Two guys wrapping a girl in a warm protective film.

Step 3: Cover the Burn

Once the burn has been cooled and any jewellery or tight clothing removed, the next step is to cover the burn with a sterile, non-adhesive bandage or gauze. Covering the burn can help protect the area from further injury and reduce the risk of infection. 

Here’s how to cover a minor burn:

Apply Petroleum Jelly 

An effective way to treat burns after cooling is to apply petroleum jelly to the area a few times a day. Avoid applying ointments, toothpaste, or butter to the burn, as these can increase the risk of infection. It’s also important to avoid using topical antibiotics, as they can cause an allergic reaction or other adverse effects.

Use a Sterile Bandage

Use a sterile bandage/ gauze to cover the burn. Do not use cotton balls or anything that can stick to the burn.

Change the Bandage Regularly

Change the bandage regularly, at least once daily, or whenever it becomes wet or dirty. Be sure to wash your hands well before and after changing the bandage.

Keep the Burn Clean and Dry 

Keep the burn clean and dry at all times. Avoid exposing the burn to water, especially if the bandage becomes wet. If the bandage becomes wet, remove it and replace it with a new, dry one.

Avoid Wrapping the Bandage Too Tightly

Do not wrap the bandage too tightly, which can restrict blood flow and cause further injury.

Step 4: Take Pain Relievers

Taking over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can actively alleviate pain. Make sure to read and follow the instructions on the label, and don’t take more than the recommended dose. If you are unsure if taking these medications or have other medical conditions is safe, speak to your doctor or pharmacist before taking them.

Step 5: Protect the Area From the Sun

After the burn has healed, protect the area from the sun by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, or applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. This will reduce scarring and minimise redness that can persist for weeks, particularly those with darker skin tones.

Step 6: Watch for Signs of Infection

Keep an eye on the burn for signs of infection, such as —

  • redness, 
  • swelling, 
  • warmth, 
  • or pus.

If you see any of those symptoms, get medical help right away. Infections can be serious and lead to further complications, especially if left untreated. Keep the burn clean and covered at all times, and avoid touching it as much as possible.

Young bearded male doctor wearing white coat with stethoscope showing arm pointing with index finger to it.

When to Seek Medical Attention

In some situations, seeking medical attention for a minor burn is necessary. Take medical help if the burn is large, on sensitive areas like the face, hands or feet, appears to be a third-degree burn caused by chemicals, electricity, or radiation or if there are other serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness. Remember, delaying treatment can lead to more complications and even life-threatening.

Tips for Preventing Burns

Here are some tips to prevent burns:

  • Always check the temperature of your food or drink before consuming it.
  • Keep hot liquids and foods away from the table’s edge or counter to prevent accidental spills.
  • Always use oven mitts or pot holders when handling hot pots and pans.
  • Keep children away from hot surfaces like stovetops, ovens, and fireplaces.
  • Keep flammable materials, such as curtains and clothing, away from stovetops and other heat sources.
  • Never leave cooking food unattended.
  • Install smoke detectors throughout your home and test them regularly.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and learn how to use it.
  • Avoid smoking indoors, and never smoke in bed.
  • Place matches out of reach of children.

Discover the importance of fire safety signs and symbols in our everyday lives, and learn how they can keep you and your loved ones safe during a fire. Check out our informative blog now!

Further advice on how to treat minor burns with first aid

To get help with a burn or scald, you can:

Wrapping Up

Knowing how to treat minor burns with first aid is a vital life skill that can make a significant difference in your recovery. By maintaining these steps and seeking medical attention when necessary, you can effectively manage minor burns and prevent them from turning into more serious injuries. Stay safe and be prepared!


How to treat a burn on the hand from a hot pan?

When treating a burn on the hand from a hot pan, cool the affected area using cool or lukewarm running water for at least 20 minutes as soon as possible after the injury. Avoid ice, iced water, creams or greasy substances such as butter, as they can further damage the burned skin.

Why should you cover a burn after cooling it?

Covering a burn after cooling helps protect the area from further injury or infection. It also helps keep the area moist and promotes healing.

How long should you keep a burn covered?

Keep a burn covered until it has fully healed, which can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, relying on the severity of the burn or as long as your healthcare provider recommends.


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Ricky Kambray

Hey this is Ricky Kambray an award-winning first-aid trainer with over 20 years of healthcare and teaching expertise. Highly certified general nurse regularly appears in the press discussing accident prevention and first aid advice.