A first degree burn is a mild burn affecting the outermost layer of skin, called the epidermis. A sunburn is a good example of this type of burn. The skin is reddened and tender. Swelling may also occur. These burns generally heal within a week. Permanent scarring or disfigurement does not occur in first degree burns.
Examples of First Degree Burns
As mentioned, sunburn is a typical example of a first degree burn. First degree burns may also occur from touching a hot surface, spilling a hot liquid or coming in contact with a stove element or clothes iron. All of these may produce a mild first degree burn.Cooling a Burn
Regardless of the degree of burn, the first step in treating any burn is to cool the affected area. This is important because the burning process can continue even when the source of heat has been removed. To cool a burn, you can immerse the area in cool running water. You can also wet towels or cloths with cold water and cover the burned area. Cool water not only stops the burn from progressing, but is also helpful in treating the pain associated with burns. If the burn covers a large area of the skin, it is important to keep the burn victim warm- cooling a large area of the body may decrease the victim’s body temperature excessively, causing hypothermia. Cooling the burned area is the most important step in treating first degree burns.Creams and Ointments
Over-the-counter products are available to treat mild burns. Many of these products contain aloe vera, which is derived from a plant with the same name. Some people keep aloe vera plants at home, breaking off a piece and applying the liquid from inside the plant’s leaves to a mild burn. Antibiotic creams are not necessary for first degree burns. A good moisturizer will often soothe the discomfort caused by the irritated nerve endings in the skin and provide a sensation of coolness and comfort. Any cream or ointment that moisturizes the skin will suffice. What Not to Apply
Many home remedies of old are unnecessary and potentially harmful. Never apply butter or oil to a burn. Although unlikely to harm a first degree burn, they may cause infection in burns of a higher degree. It is best to apply only moisturizers and avoid any household products- some may even worsen the pain of a first degree burn by irritating the skin.Seeking Professional Help
It is rarely necessary to see a doctor for a first degree burn; however, there are exceptions to every rule! If an individual suffers first degree burns over a very large area of their body, they may require treatment, including pain medication and/or rehydration. The very young and the very old are more likely to require care for a very large first degree burn. Many hospitals or other healthcare facilities have numbers to call for telephone advice- you may want to contact a professional for advice should you or a loved one suffer a large first degree burn.