How to treat a burn

Six hours ago, right before I left work, I managed to spill hot water all over my hand. I took IB profun for the pain and an aloe based burn relief for the burn, but it is still red and it still hurts like a biatch. I’ve been looking around for information on how to treat it and not finding anything other than:

  1. take a pain reliever
  2. put light, cool towels over it

That’s not been very helpful. Any suggestions/ideas?

The good news is that you cannot cause any signifcant injury spilling even boiling water on yourself provided what is spilled is pure water. Cold is the best bet for symptomatic relief from your first degree burns. Other than that you just have to wait it out.

Not true. Boiling water spills can cause significant and even fatal burns.


Vanilla is used to treat burns. One benefit is that it is supposed to help prevent scarring.

(My wife works in the burn center of a hospital)
I believe cool water, saline washes and good clean coverings with a topical treatment will help, especially in the prevention of infections, which are the real thing to watch for.

If grafting isn’t needed, do the common sense things I mentioned above.

If grafting is needed, you’ll get a whole series of things to do from your surgeon.

Of course, avoid extreme temps on the damaged skin (hot or cold) and avoid direct sunlight and lotions.

I am going to quote :
Hot Water Burns

“Consult a doctor if burns occur on the face, hands, genitalia, feet, or for any burn on an infant.”

Call the doc. If he/she recommends, go to the emergency room, or preferably, your regional burn care center. I am serious. Burns hurt. You need medical attention.

I got a nasty water burn on the top of my thigh. I was comping in the wilderness and medical attention was limited to a cute EMT who gave me some tea tree oil and Tylenol. The burn was bright red, then the skin turned brown and peeled off. Charming. I had to deal with the scarring.

Immerse the burned part in cold water immediately. The colder the water and the quicker you do it, the better. Add ice if possible. For a small burn, assuming you have an aloe vera plant, strip the skin off one side of a piece of an aloe branch and tape it to the burn, pulpy side of the aloe against the burn. If you don’t have an aloe vera plant, get one and keep it nearby.

The ability of aloe vera juice to relieve the pain of minor burns is amazing, and healing is much quicker. Don’t ask me why – I’m neither a pharmacologist nor a chemist.

I am not a doctor or nurse, but I’m clumsy enough to have burned my hands with steam or water fairly often while cooking - never second degree (blistering) or worse though, fortunately.

My suggestion, which has worked for me before on hand burns, is to put a lot of aloe vera gel (the storebought stuff will work) into a plastic baggie, sandwich size or so. You’ll need a fair amount, as you’re going to stuff your hand into it, and need to cover the burn area well. If you have to, tape or rubber-band it in place, and keep your hand in the gel (add more if needed) for at least a few hours. If you can remove your hand from the bag and leave it out without feeling that burning sensation come back, then stop using the baggie.

(My wild guess is that somehow keeping the air off the burn also helps, which is probably why the old wives’ tale of putting butter on burns - don’t, by the way - got started.)

If the burn area is over a significant part of the hand (one full side or more), or is blistering, consider at least calling some sort of health help line - some hospitals have nurses staff these call-in lines where you can get limited, free medical advice.

Go to the doctor. I had a neighbor who was burned badly by water from a coffee maker, she had to have lots of treatment and still had big scars. You certainly don’t want scars on your hands, it could interfere with movement.

I thought oxygen was very good for burns. (Or is that only for the really serious stuff requiring a hyperbaric chamber?)

Am I mistaken?

I had 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my fingers last year (spilled some liquid peanut brittle on them - 350 degrees F or so. Let me tell ya, that hurt). I had two white blisters the size of large grapes on my fingers.

Fingers in a class of icewater, trying to drive while my ex-boyfriend shifted (he couldn’t drive my manual), I went to the emergency room. They said that keeping it in non-sanitary tap water was probably a bad idea and they gave me some antibiotic goop to put on them (which the nurse who saw me a week later said was useless since the blisters were still intact). They also told me to keep them covered with gauze, not with any kind of dressing that would keep the air out. Once my blisters popped, I put neosporin and bandaids on 'em. Now, I hardly even have a scar.

Oh, and they also gave me a prescription for Vicadin. That was really necessary the first day. Driving to Walgreens to get it filled was some of the worst pain of my life. After the first day it hardly hurt at all. Good luck, it can only get better now.

The ER is full of crap. First aid for ALL burns is cold water, NO ICE (ice-cold water is OK). This applies only to first aid; there is pretty much nothing you can harm by putting water on a burn, and much good in cooling it rapidly. Emergency medical personnel, of course, will avoid such measures because they have sterile water, sterile saline, sterile this and sterile that on hand, but they have no business telling people not to put water on a burn. If any microbes are introduced in tap water (which is actually pretty damn sanitary, if it’s been through treatment), they are eliminated by using antibiotics, which are (or ought to be) standard prophylaxis for burns anyway.

It used to be taught in first aid classes that you shouldn’t put water on 2nd or 3rd degree burns, or on open blisters, but the thinking now is that it does no real harm, and the risk from not cooling down a treatable burn is worse.

Can’t suggest anything for the redness/scaring potential, but a few drinks should do something for the pain.

what a co-incidence! I just saw a patient who spilled hot water on his legs 4 weeks ago! He’s going in for skin grafting soon! They still look nasty, but are healing nicely. that is, there is no infection, and I can’t see the muscles of his legs or the bones.

nametag is right. First aid for a burn is to cool the burn first and foremost!!! No butter, no snow, no lemon juice, just lots and lots of cold water.

I have always treated small burns, cooking type burns, with a dab of toothpaste. Don’t know that it helps healing but it works great on the pain. And yes I have done comparative studies, using just ice water, an ice pack, burn cream, and tooth paste. Tooth paste wins.