Treating Minor Burns
- April 7, 2020
School has gone virtual! Now your little ones are home all day, meaning more opportunity for household accidents. Kids are curious, and they get their hands on many things they should not, such as hot water, grills, and curling irons. There are over one million burn injuries each year in the US. Fortunately, most are considered minor and can be treated at home or at an urgent care like Little Spurs.
Burns are classified by how much area is affected (body surface area) and by how deep they are. Both the treatment and how they heal depend a lot on the type of burn your child may have. At Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care, we can certainly treat minor burns or what the American Burn Association calls “partial thickness burns”. These affect less than 10% of the body and are not very deep. Anything else, usually requires treatment in a specialized burn center.
So, what is a minor burn then?
A minor burn is a burn that does not involve the face, hands, private area, feet or major joints such as elbows or knees. You should keep in mind that if a child is exposed to fire and inhales, the windpipe may be affected and that is never considered a minor burn.
Can you treat a minor burn at home?
First thing is to do “Cooling”. It is important to remove any clothes, jewelry or any object close to burn to decrease the risk of prolonging the burning process. After that the burn can be cooled with room temperature or tap water to alleviate pain. Keep in mind that ice or very cold water can worsen the pain and the burn. Water that is too cold can also burn in different degrees (frostbite, frostnip, chilblain). This cooling can be continued until the pain decreases. There is a study from Annals of Emergency Medicine suggest that “Burn severity and clinical outcomes improved with the administration of cool running water” when done up to 20 minutes. Another option is to cover the wound with a water soaked gauze for 30 minutes.
How do I help the pain?
Pain management should never be ignored. Burns hurt, regardless of the severity! An appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be helpful. In more severe cases of pain, they can be administered “around the clock”, meaning giving them every six hours for the first 24 hours, and for breakthrough pain thereafter. Other simple measures are keeping the affected area above the level of the heart to reduce swelling accumulation.
How do I keep it from getting infected?
The burn should be kept clean. Keep it simple! They can be safely cleaned with mild soap and tap water. There are some medical studies stating there may be no need for normal saline. Even hospitals are now starting to use tap water to clean a burn. Other home remedies such as mustard, aloe vera, vinegar, toothpaste, ice directly on burns not only have not been proven to work, but can be harmful, especially ice. If the burn blisters up, leave them alone if they are intact! This is the body’s natural bandaid. If the blisters are ruptured, they may need to be cleaned out by an urgent care/emergency medicine provider. Fortunately, burns rarely get infected, therefore they usually do not need any oral antibiotics. Occasionally your provider may recommend a topical antibiotic such as Triple Antibiotic or Neosporin for minor burns. Minor burns usually do not to be dressed, but it can be certainly be considered if there is a lot of pain, or if your little one has a tendency to pick at it, as long as it is a dry, nonstick gauze, easily found in your closest pharmacy. These should be changed once to twice a day.
How long will it take for healing?
Even minor burns may take up to 2 weeks to heal. If there is evidence of severe scarring before this time frame, it is time for your primary care provider to refer your child to a specialist. After healing has begun, a moisturizing cream such as Eucerin, Nivea, or Cocoa Butter can be applied the the area. Always make sure you follow up with your primary care provider.
Stay Safe! Be Prepared!
Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care first opened in 2006 in San Antonio and now has 13 locations in Texas. Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care is owned by a pediatrician, Thomas Spurgat, MD, MBA, who has experience in general and emergency pediatrics.
Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care is open Monday through Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday 9am-6pm, and Sunday 10am-6pm. They accept most commercial insurance and Medicaid plans. More information about Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care can be found at www.littlespurspedi.com.
Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care is accredited through the Urgent Care Association. Little Spurs is the the only UCA accredited pediatric urgent care group in San Antonio and Dallas.
- Summer GJ, Puntillo KA, Miaskowski C, et al. Burn injury pain: the continuing challenge. J Pain 2007; 8:533.
- Rashaan ZM, Krijnen P, Klamer RR, et al. Nonsilver treatment vs. silver sulfadiazine in treatment of partial-thickness burn wounds in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Wound Repair Regen 2014; 22:473.
- Wasiak J, Cleland H, Campbell F, Spinks A. Dressings for superficial and partial thickness burns. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; :CD002106.
- Heinrich JJ, Brand DA, Cuono CB. The role of topical treatment as a determinant of infection in outpatient burns. J Burn Care Rehabil 1988; 9:253.
- Peate WF. Outpatient management of burns. Am Fam Physician 1992; 45:1321.