First Aid for Minor Burns

Minor or first degree burns are incredibly common household injuries. Our homes are full of items which can cause burns – hair straighteners, kettles, toasters, electric heaters. The list is endless!

Generally, burns are caused by touching something hot which damages the top layer of skin or epidermis. However, they can also be caused by radiation (for example, from the sun), chemicals, electricity and friction.

As well heat, burns can also be caused by the extreme cold – these are known as freeze or ice burns.

In this first aid blog post we will discuss the correct first aid treatment for minor burns.

Running water cooling a minor burn to the hand and wrist

Treating a minor burn

Step 1: Immediately run the burn under cold running water for a minimum of 20 minutes. If running cold water is not available then improvise! You can use other non-toxic liquids such as drinks. Your aim is to cool the burn. 

Step 2: Expose the affected area and if possible remove anything that could be constricted (watches, jewellery etc.). Do not remove clothing sticking to the burn, instead cool through the clothing.

Step 3: After cooling the burn, cover with a non-fluffy dressing/covering. If you have access to a first aid kit, use a non-fluffy sterile dressing. If not then improvise with whatever is available (plastic bag, kitchen clingfilm, teatowel etc.). As the top layer of skin has been damaged by the burn, adding a cover protects against infection from the outside world getting in. Be careful not to constrict the burn!

Clingfilm applied to protect the burn from infection

Step 4: Seek medical advice for anything except the most minor of burns. Call an ambulance if serious or if the burn is near the face/neck. When it comes to burns, there are lots of ‘housewifes tales’ and home-made remedies, in general however you should not:

  • Apply toothpaste/butter/spread/anything else to the burn
  • Burst blisters (however tempting!)
  • Apply adhesive dressings or plasters

The reason behind the top one is that cool running water is the most effective method to cool a burn, not anything else. However for sunburn, you can apply an after-sun lotion as this will help cool & sooth the burn.

To refresh your knowledge on the different types of burn check out our classification of burns blog post here, or visit our first aid tips for treating other types of burns and scalds.


Want to learn more first aid skills? Sign up to one of our free online first aid courses to improve your first aid knowledge.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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2 Responses

  1. RalphHart says:

    I went thro this with my wife first hand – *I did all the right steps too

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