Burns are injuries to tissue caused by heat, electricity, chemicals, or radiation. Thermal and chemical burns usually occur due to exposure to heat or chemicals to the skin. Thus, skin usually sustains the brunt of the damage, however, severe burns can even penetrate to body structures such as fat, muscle, or bone. Burns are classified as either first, second, or third degree.


  • Red and blistered skin
  • Wet appearance of the area due to fluid loss
  • Intense pain in afflicted area
  • Blistering
  • Blanching (whitening) to area when touched
  • Loss of sensation to whitened skin (third degree burn)

Who is at risk?

  • Anyone whose body has been exposed to extreme heat or chemicals
  • People who have been exposed to the sun for prolonged periods

Treatment for Burns

The most immediate treatment for burns, both thermal and chemical, is to stop the injury from progressing. Clothing covered with chemicals or hot substances should be removed immediately, and the injured skin should be placed in cold water, not ice. If done immediately, immersion in cold water can reduce the depth and total area of a burn. After these initial measures, the goals of treatment are pain relief and proper healing of the affected area. For minor burns, over the counter pain relievers and topical ointments will provide adequate protection.

For deeper, blistered burns, you should first make sure to leave the blister alone, if it is intact. You should use petroleum jelly and a light gauze wrap to protect it. When the blister bursts, remove the collapsed skin with sterile tweezers and gentle washing. Continue to use gauze to protect the blister and change the dressing once or twice daily to prevent it from becoming soggy and breaking down the skin.

Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen will control pain and swelling of the injury.

Make sure your Tetanus shot is up to date.

When should I see a doctor?

  • If the area of your blistering burns is the size of your palm or larger, seek medical attention immediately.
  • If there are any signs of infection including fever, redness and swelling of the wound
  • If there is foul smelling drainage seeping from the burn
  • If there is evidence of shock, including difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, inability to stay warm, etc.

Treatment for burns is available now at Mountain Lakes Medical Center in Mountain Lakes, NJ.

For more information on burns, see the following websites:

Medline Plus (NIH) Burns Page

Burns: Taking Care of Burns – FamilyDoctor.org

Information on Burns – from the Merck Online Medical Library

Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of MtLakesMedical.com. The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.