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Treatment for Minor Burn

Minor burns are the most frequent kind of burn that you will see. They are not very difficult to treat. Minor burns will get better on their own, with time. Complicated dressings are not necessary. Antibiotics are also not necessary. The most important thing to do is make the patient comfortable and keep the wound clean.

Although this hurts we advise you to remove all blisters and devitalized tissue. If left in place there is an increased potential for wound infection because the fluid which collects within a blister and the devitalized tissue creates a culture medium in which bacteria can thrive.

We like to apply non-adherent gauze, simply because it is more comfortable for the patient. The purpose of applying ointment is twofold. First it makes the patient more comfortable and second it requires washing of the wound to remove the old pointment. Washing is the most important thing you can do in the treatment of a minor burn.

Ace wraps are not necessary but they may increase comfort, especially for burns of the lower extremities.

If you have a burned foot, you must walk on it. This is very important. If you don't walk, your foot will swell. The more it swells the more likely it is to get infected, the more likely it is going to hurt and it will take longer to heal. Do not use crutches or a wheel chair. It will hurt to walk, but in the long run it will hurt much more if you don't walk on these wounds.

Wound Care:

  • Clean the wound with soap and water.
  • Remove all devitalized tissue.
  • Remove all blisters.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment.
  • Leave the wound open or wrap lightly with gauze.
  • Repeat the cleansing process and application of ointment once daily.

Do's and Don'ts:

  • Do not soak the wound in ice water.
  • Do not wrap in an occlusive dressing.
  • Do encourage active range of motion.
  • The most important "Don't" is to: do not soak the wound in ice water. If you burn yourself or witness a burn injury and immediately immerse the wound in ice water, the burn will be less extensive and not as deep. BUT if you wait just 15 seconds and immerse the wound, there will be no beneficial effect from the ice water. The potential for extending the damage, caused by a frostbite injury over a burn injury, is great.

*DISCLAIMER This site is designed as an introduction to thermal injury for emergency medical technicians, medical students and physicians in training. It is not a comprehensive guide to thermal injury. As such the information may not be sufficient to address specific patient problems and these should be handled by physicians familiar with the specific clinical details pertinent to the individual patient. We invite comments from all users of this site.

Surgery Annual Report

Read the 2017/18 Surgery Annual Report

In this year's Annual Report, we share our vision for clinical care, research, and training, and the latest news from our 13 specialty divisions. From transformational clinical growth—which means healthier patients in our region—to extending our training capabilities by expanding the Center for the Future of Surgery; to exciting new research collaborations, in the last year, UC San Diego's Department of Surgery lived out its mission to do the very, very best for today's and tomorrow's patients.