First Aid Tips to Treat a Minor Burn at Home

Scalded by the iron? Here’s what to do.

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If you spend any time at all in front of a stove, you’ve likely dealt with a burn or two. The kitchen is full of common burn culprits: boiling kettles, pots filled with sizzling grease, hot burners, and even scalding-hot pan handles (looking at you, stainless steel).

These burns are usually minor, just a first- or second-degree burn. First-degree burns damage only the top layer of skin (the epidermis). Sunburn is a type of first-degree burn, and you can easily treat these at home with cool compresses and bandages. No need for ointments, but aloe vera works well to provide relief.

A second-degree burn requires a little more attention. You’ll know it’s a second-degree burn when you see blisters, a glossy appearance, or slight loss of skin, in addition to the usual redness and pain.

If the burn has removed entire layers of skin, is dry and leathery, or feels virtually painless, it is a third-degree burn and requires immediate medical attention. After calling 9-1-1, cover the burn lightly with a sterile gauze, lie down with the feet elevated, and wait for emergency responders to provide additional care.

Here’s how the CDC recommends treating a first or second-degree burn.

  1. Run under cool water for about 10 minutes. Make sure it’s cool—not cold. “Your sensation is going to be altered after a burn,” says nurse practitioner Erik Larson. “If you suddenly change to the opposite temperature extreme, you run the risk of making the injury worse, almost like a frostbite injury.”

  2. Moisturize with aloe vera—not butter, mayo, or oil. Those oil-based products (they’re called “salves”) trap the heat on the skin, so they won’t provide the relief you need to start healing. The best option is aloe straight from the aloe vera plant, but bottled options will work, too.

  3. Don’t break blisters. It’s tempting to pop and peel blisters, but this will delay healing. If blisters do break, the CDC recommends washing the area gently with soap and water and covering in sterile gauze.

  4. Take OTC pain medications as needed. Here are the differences between common painkillers you probably already have in your medicine cabinet.