Dermatology Treatments : How to Care for a Skin Burn
How to Prevent Burn Scars
As if burns weren’t bad enough, some burns can seriously damage the lower levels of your skin and leave you with significant scarring. Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent burn scars from becoming too severe. By applying the right first aid to your burn and following a long-term treatment regimen, you can keep your burn scars under control and prevent unsightly discolorations in your skin.
Applying First Aid
Rinse the burned area with cool water to keep the wound clean.Immediately after you’ve been burned, rinse the wound with cool water from a sink or faucet at a comfortable temperature. This will wash away germs and other debris and help keep the area clean.
- Don't use cold water to rinse your burn, as this can further irritate your skin.
- If the burn is in an area where it can’t be run under the sink, fill a cup with water and run it along the burn to get the same results.
- Allow the burned area to air dry after you’ve rinsed it.
- Take off any restrictive clothing or jewelry that is near the burned area, such as rings, belts, and tight fabric. Burns can swell quickly, making it hard to remove these items later.
Apply antibiotic cream to the burn to prevent bacterial infection.Keeping your burn from getting infected will go a long way towards preventing significant scarring. Use antibiotic cream on your burn after you’ve cleaned it to best prevent bacteria from infecting the wound.
- Apply the cream using sterile tongue depressors to make sure you’re not adding bacteria to the wound from your hands.
- Follow the dosage instructions for your antibiotic cream to determine how much to apply to your burn.
- For added comfort, use an antibiotic cream that also offers pain relief to help numb the pain caused by your burn.
Cover the burned area with a burn bandage to keep it cool and moist.Once your burn has been cleaned and treated with an antibiotic cream, you’ll need to keep it covered and moist for it to heal faster. Place a special burn bandage with cooling and moisturizing properties on your burn to speed up the healing process and better prevent scar formation.
- This type of burn bandage can be purchased at any pharmacy or online.
- If you don’t have a burn bandage, you can also use petroleum jelly to keep a wound moist and wrap it in a non-stick gauze pad.
Consult your doctor if it is a 2nd or 3rd degree burn.1st degree burns are relatively mild and often don’t leave any scarring. However, if your burn is a 2nd or 3rd degree burn, the damage to your skin will probably be enough to leave a serious scar. Visit your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for your burn to prevent scarring.
- 2nd degree burns often cause red or white splotchy skin, blisters, and severe pain. They will usually cause scarring if they're deep enough.
- 3rd degree burns often leave skin charred black or white and can destroy nerves in the skin, causing numbness.
- 1st degree burns heal within a few days just from home remedies. Most sunburns are a good example of a 1st degree burn.
Keep an eye out for signs of infection in your burn.If your burn shows signs of infection, it means the underlying wound is not healing properly. See your doctor at the first sign of infection to make sure your burn doesn’t get any more serious and leave a worse scar.
- Signs of infection in a burn include oozing pus or foul-smelling discharge, expanding redness around the burn, or increased pain.
Treating Your Burn Over the Long Term
Keep your burn moisturized.Lightly apply a moisturizer when you clean your burn, or twice a day. Choose an unscented lotion, as fragrances can irritate your burned skin.
- Using lotions or ointments often is one of the best ways to prevent scarring.
Wear pressure garments to minimize scarring.Pressure garments are one of the most widely recommended treatment options for minimizing serious scarring over time. Use pressure garments on deep burns to reduce scarring over time.
- When using pressure garments, it’s important to wear them consistently to get the best results. Wear your pressure garment for 23 hours every day and only take it off when bathing.
- Pressure garments will take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to have a significant effect on your scarring.
- You should begin wearing a pressure garment after your burn has healed and your wound can withstand the constant pressure.
Avoid breaking or touching your blisters.Breaking your skin can increase your risk of developing a scar. Worse, the broken skin will increase your risk of developing an infection. Let the burn heal on its own.
- If your blisters break on their own, it's best to get them checked by your doctor to ensure you aren't at risk for infection.
Take an over-the-counter antihistamine to manage itching.It's normal for a burn to itch as it heals, but you shouldn't scratch it. Touching your burn increases your risk of scarring! You can minimize itching by taking an over-the-counter antihistamine.
- Good options include cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Antihistamines can have side effects. Some cause drowsiness, so check the label on your antihistamine before using it.
- Check with your doctor before you take an antihistamine.
Apply sunscreen to your burn if left exposed to the sun.After your burn has healed, the wound will be really vulnerable to sunlight and too much exposure to the sun can cause serious discoloration. Keep your burn covered with sunscreen to prevent discoloration and to help the scar fade faster.
- You’ll need to apply sunscreen to your burn for 6 months to keep it adequately protected from the sun.
- Keeping your burn covered with clothing or a hat while outside will also work; the important thing is to not leave your burn exposed to strong sunlight.
Follow a physical therapy regimen to reduce scarring on joints.Burn scars that mature and tighten over joints can lead to limitations in movement known as contractures. Do physical therapy and range of motion exercises to keep the muscles and joints of a burned limb flexible and reduce contractures.
- Consult with a physical therapist to determine what stretches and exercises are best suited for your particular injury.
- It’s important that you do your exercises and stretches several times each day to make sure they’re having the full effect.
Consider applying medicinal honey to your burn to reduce scarring.Some studies have found that medicinal honey has been effective at reducing scarring in some burn patients. Consider using medicinal honey as an all-natural topical treatment for preventing scars.
- Honey helps guard your wound from infection and stimulate new tissue growth. Use a medicinal honey like manuka honey for the best results.
- Consult with your doctor before resorting to medicinal honey for scar prevention.
Use a scar removal cream to reduce scars that have already formed.If you weren’t able to fully prevent burn scars from appearing, there are at least some topical treatments you can use to get rid of them. Apply scar removal cream to the scar to reduce its visibility and encourage a more even tone in your skin.
- Scar removal cream can be purchased at any pharmacy, most mass retailers, and online.
- Follow the specific usage instructions for your scar removal cream and be sure to use it every day to get the best results.
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