Topic Overview

For many
second-degree burns, home treatment is all that is
needed for healing and to prevent other problems.

Rinse the burn

  • Rinse burned skin with cool water until the
    pain stops. Rinsing will usually stop the pain in 15 to 30 minutes. The cool
    water lowers the skin temperature and stops the burn from becoming more
    serious. You may:

    • Place arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, or
      toes in a basin of cool water.
    • Apply cool compresses to burns on
      the face or body.
  • Do not use ice or ice
    water, which can cause tissue damage.
  • Take off any jewelry, rings,
    or clothing that could be in the way or that would become too tight if the skin

Clean the burn

  • Wash your hands before cleaning a burn.
    Do not touch the burn with your hands or anything dirty, because open blisters
    can easily be infected.
  • Do not break the
    blisters. .
  • Gently wash the burn area with clean water. Some of the
    burned skin might come off with washing. Pat the area dry with a clean cloth or
  • Do not put sprays or butter
    on burns, because this traps the heat inside the burn.

Bandaging the burn

  • If the burned skin or blisters have not broken
    open, a bandage may not be needed. If the burned skin or unbroken blisters are
    likely to become dirty or be irritated by clothing, apply a
  • If the burned skin or blisters have broken open, a bandage
    is needed. To further help prevent infection, apply a clean bandage whenever
    your bandage gets wet or soiled. If a bandage is stuck to a burn, soak it in
    warm water to make the bandage easier to remove. If available, use a nonstick
    dressing. There are many bandage products available. Be sure to read the
    product label for correct use.
  • Wrap the burn loosely to avoid
    putting pressure on the burned skin.
  • Do not tape a bandage so that
    it circles a hand, arm, or leg. This can cause swelling.

There are many nonprescription burn dressings available. Be sure to
follow the instructions included in the package.

If the burn is on a leg or an arm, keep the limb raised as much as
possible for the first 24 to 48 hours to decrease swelling. Move a burned leg
or arm normally to keep the burned skin from healing too tightly, which can
limit movement.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O’Connor, MD – Emergency Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMarch 20, 2017