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How to treat burns

Burnt yourself? Find out how to treat a burn as fast as possible, and whether you require medical attention

What is a burn?

Burns are skin damages sustained as a result of contact with a hot surface, flame or other substance such as boiling water or excessive exposure to the sun. Burns can also be caused by exposure to high levels of electric current or by chemicals. 

The term 'burn' doesn't just relate to the burning sensation that occurs with this injury, burns cause skin cells to die which leads to severe skin damage. Knowing how to treat burns is vital because the different categories of burns each require their own treatment.
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Degrees of burn

First degree burns

First degree burns are typically superficial skin damages that do not exceed the top layer of skin. This also includes mild sunburns. First degree burns can be painful but, in most cases, easily treated at home. They are often characterised by pain, redness, slight swelling and dryness but without blisters.
Illustration of a first degree burn damaging skin

Second degree burns

Second degree burns can be extremely painful and create more serious skin damage as they include the epidermis and part of the underlying dermis. The burned area is red, swollen and blistered and may become infected if not properly cared for. These burns can often be treated with basic first aid but depending on their location or size may also require medical attention.

Illustration of a second degree burn damaging skin

Third degree burns

Third degree burns are extremely serious and cause severe damage to deeper layers of the skin. They are characterised by a whitened or charred burn site with no sensation in the area due to destroyed nerve endings. Third degree burns are emergency situations and immediate medical attention should be sought.

How to recognise an infected burn

Just like any other wound, burns can become infected. Typical signs of an infection are: additional redness around the wound, abnormal warmth, reoccurrence of pain after the initial pain relief, swelling of the wound and occurrence of pus. Also, a fever may be a sign of an infection. If you notice any of these changes, consult a doctor as soon as possible.
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Burns treatment

You can easily get burned, and chances are that whether it is from fire or a domestic heat source, it will happen as fast as lightning and take you by surprise. Learn more about treating burns in our step-by-step guide below. Find out what to do

If it’s a severe third-degree burn, caused by chemicals or larger areas are affected, in which case you need instant medical attention.

3 step guide to treating burns and scalds

Person switching off source of heat to limit risk of burn

Move away from the heat source and secure the danger area first. 

Switch off electrical appliances
, fight flames or remove hot water or source of heat or flames before treating the casualty.

Person treating burnt hand under cold water to reduce pain
Cool the burned or scalded area under cold running water for at least 10 minutes or until the pain subsides.

Do not apply ice.
Cooling the burn with water is known to relieve pain and reduce swelling, as well as preventing blisters.
Person carefully drying burnt hand
Dry the affected area gently and carefully.
Never put fat or butter onto a burn or remove anything stuck to the skin, such as clothing. When in doubt, seek medical advice.

When to seek medical advice for a burn

While most burns are relatively minor and can be treated at home, others may require medical attention, and knowing the difference is essential. We recommend seeking medical advice if:

  • The burned area is large (more than three inches) and deep.
  • After initial pain relief the burned area again shows signs of infection such as redness, heat, swelling, pain, itching or burning.
  • A child is burned.
  • The burn is on a sensitive part of the body (e.g. the face or genitals).
  • You have any questions or concerns.

For third-degree burns, you should always seek medical attention immediately.

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What to put on burns

Proper burns and scald treatment with the following Elastoplast products will help your skin return to a healthy and unimpaired state.

Treating first degree burns

Most first-degree burns are relatively minor and are most often caused by brief contact with a hot surface or a minor scald from hot water. Another common form of first-degree burn is sunburn, caused by damage from the sun’s UV rays.


Typically, first degree burns recover on their own and do not require special treatment. However, it is recommended to cool the affected area under running water to relieve the pain and then apply Elastoplast Wound Healing Ointment. If you have a sunburn, wear loose-fitting clothing for a few days and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

woman treating sunburn on shoulder
Sunburn is a common form of first-degree burn

Treating second degree burns

Second degree burns can be more serious and thus require more care than first degree burns. First, cool the wound under running water for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not apply ice or extremely cold water as it could create further damage and lower the body’s temperature. 

Use the Elastoplast Wound Spray to clean from bacteria to prevent infections. Afterwards, gently dry the affected area and apply a thin layer of Elastoplast Wound Healing Ointment to support the healing process and cover your burn with an appropriate plaster or a sterile compress to protect it from external influences. Do not attempt to break any blisters that may occur.

Many second-degree burns will heal within a week or two if kept clean and cared for. Depending on the location and size of the burn, it may be advisable to visit your doctor, especially to prevent scarring or if you discover any sign of infection during the healing phase, such as redness, swelling, or pain. 
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Preventing burns

Fortunately, many burns can be prevented. Most of them happen in the heart of the home – the kitchen.

Of the many types of burns that can happen in your home, scalds may be the most unexpected. Children have thinner skin than adults and are therefore more likely to receive severe burns from hot liquid, but these simple precautions can protect you and your family:

  • Always stay in the kitchen while food is cooking. Don’t get distracted by phone calls, someone calling from another room, etc.
  • Wear protective oven gloves when taking something out of a hot oven.
  • Turn pot and pan handles toward the back or centre of the oven so that they cannot be knocked over, because steam can easily scald your wrists and hands.
  • Place hot liquids like soup, coffee or tea away from the edges of worktops and tables so that children cannot tip them over.
  • Keep items such as dish towels, plastic bags, and long sleeves away from the heating surface.Never cook while holding a child or pet.
  • Keep small children and pets away from the front of the oven.
  • Never warm baby bottles in the microwave; they may heat unevenly and can burn your baby’s mouth.
  • Place a fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen.
  • Test smoke detectors once a month.
If you should suffer a burn, follow the steps under Burns Treatment and keep your wound covered so that it will have ideal moist wound healing conditions. If a blister should appear, leave it alone and do not open its protective roof.
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Always see a doctor if the wound is deep, bleeds heavily or shows signs of infection like reddening, swelling or warmth. Please note that, although they were compiled with great care, the tips and advice given on this website by no means substitute medical advice and treatment. If you have or suspect a health problem, consult a doctor and follow medical advice, regardless of what you have learned on this website. Always read carefully and follow the instructions for use or the leaflets of our products.

For further information about Elastoplast products, please contact us at consumer.relations.uk@beiersdorf.com