Burns: types, symptoms, and first aid


Burns are damage to skin tissues. It’s a very common injury, especially in children.

Burns happen due to different causes such as:

  • Fire.
  • Hot and boiling liquids.
  • Steam.
  • Hot surfaces and metals.
  • Electricity.
  • Radiation.
  • Chemicals.
  • Sunburn (that happens with extensive exposure to the sun).

Types of burns

There are three types of burns depending on the severity of damage to skin layers.

First degree burns

First degree burns affect the superficial layer of the skin (epidermis) lead to the following symptoms:

  • Redness.
  • Pain.
  • Mild swelling.

It is considered a minor case of burns such as sunburn.

Fortunately, first degree burns relieve within 7-10 days without scars.

Second degree burns

  • Second degree burns affect epidermis and dermis leads to the following symptoms:
  • Redness.
  • Swelling.
  • Sore of skin.
  • Pain.
  • Blisters (Don’t try to open it to avoid bacterial infection).

More serious than first degree burns and need more care.

Healing of second degree burns takes longer time than first degree reach to 2-3 weeks and can leave a scar or change skin color.

Serious second degree burns might need skin graft in which the surgeon replaces the damaged skin with another healthy one from a different part of the body.

Third degree burns

Third degree burns are the most serious one that need immediate medical care. It reaches the deep layer of the skin (the sub cutis layer that contains nerves and vessels).

Symptoms are the following:

  • Black, white, or charred skin.
  • Dry and leathery skin.
  • Although third degree burns are the most serious one, the affected person might have no pain due to nerve damage.

It may cause severe complications, so the best thing to do, call an emergency center.

Also, It takes a long time for healing, and leaves a scar or contracture. You can treat that by skin graft surgery.

First aid for burns

As we mentioned before, serious burns need immediate treatment such as third degree burns and chemical burns.

On the other hand minor burns need first aid to decrease complications and improve healing.

First aid for minor burns includes the following:

  • Stop the burning process by moving the affected person away from the source of burn. And make sure if it is electricity that the power is off.
  • Make sure that the person breathes well and remove jewelry and any tights close to the wound, but don’t remove anything stuck to the burn to avoid further damage.
  •  Cool the wound by using running water for 15-20 min, but avoid cold Water and Ice.
  • Use over the counter analgesics to relieve pain of the wound, such as Paracetamol and ibuprofen.
  • Use topical moisturizer to avoid dryness of the skin and improve healing.
  • Some cases need topical antibiotics for the treatment and prevention of bacterial infection of the wound. And serious burns may need intravenous antibiotics, not only topical.
  • Use sterile gauze or clean bandage to cover the wound to keep it clean.


Common mistakes during burn first aid:

  • Using home remedies such as butter, egg, or toothpaste… all of these can contaminate the wound and cause infection.
  • Using ice to cool the wound that can cause further damage and delay the healing.
  • Opening the blister can cause bacterial infection and worsen the case.


Stop, drop, and roll

When people cloth or body catches a fire, three steps should be taken:

  • Stop and don’t run or get panic (this can increase the fire).
  • Drop on the ground and protect your eyes with your arms.
  • Roll on the ground to stop the fire.


OTC medication for burns

There are over-the-counter medications that used in the case of burn to help relieve pain, promote healing, and prevent wound infection.


Analgesics are medications that used to relieve pain due to the burn such as the following:


Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) is the safest analgesic that can be used with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and high blood pressure people.

It is available in the market as Panadol, Novaldol, Adol, and Cetal.



500-1000 mg every 4-6 hours, but the maximum dose does not exceed 4 gm. /day.


10-15 mg / kg every 4-6 hours.




Ibuprofen is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory that can be used in case of burn to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.



200-400 mg every 4-6 hours, but the maximum dose without prescription does not exceed 1200 mg/day.


5-10 mg / kg every 4-6 hours.

Ibuprofen is preferred to use with meals, not empty stomach, especially in the case of gastritis and other stomach diseases.

Administer tetanus prophylaxis.


Topical antibiotics

Many burn cases need to use antibiotics to control wound infection, decrease inflammation, and promote healing.


Bacitracin is used for many skin cases as wounds, burns, eczema, and any other skin inflammation.

It is available in the market as Bivatracin spray.


Apply the spray topically to the burn 1-3 times daily and cover it with sterile gauze.

Silver Sulfadiazine

Silver sulfadiazine is used in burns not only as treatment, but also for prevention of wound infection as it controls bacterial growth and kills it.

It is available in the market as Dermazin cream.


Dermazin cream is applied on the wound once or twice per day.


Iruxol is a topical ointment that contains the following ingredients:

Chloramphenicol: is an antibiotic that controls bacterial growth and decreases wound inflammation.

Collagenase: is an enzyme that promotes healing of the skin and increases efficiency of the antibiotic.


Iruxol is applied on the wound once or twice per day.


Mebo consists of medical herbs that promote wound healing, relieve pain, and control the infection.

Some studies indicated that Mebo has a rapid healing effect with faster recovery and shorter hospital stay.


Mebo ointment is applied on the wound 3-4 times per day in the case of uncovered wounds, but used twice daily in the case of covering wounds with sterile gauze.

When to see a doctor

You need to know that minor burns can be treated at home (as we mentioned before), but serious cases need special medical care. So you have to see a doctor in the following cases:

  • Deep burns such as third-degree burn.
  • Burn affects a widespread area of the body.
  • The burn includes the face, hands, feet, genitals, or major joints.
  • The wound becomes more painful, or develops signs of infection such as swelling, redness, fever, or pus formation.
  • No healing after 2 weeks.
  • Electrical and chemical burns also need special medical care.

Burns prevention

Burns usually occur by accident not intended and also more common among children, but there are some precautions we can take to protect ourselves and our children by following them:

  • Keep children away from the kitchen during cooking.
  • While cooking, use the rings at the back of the cooker and keep pan handles towards the back so your children can’t reach them.
  • Keep hot drinks and food away from children.
  • Matches, lighters, and candles are dangerous for your young children, so keep them away.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your home, and it is preferred to be near to the kitchen.
  • Isolate electrical appliances away from water.
  • Protect your children by covering any electrical wires.
  • Keep chemicals in specific closed places, so children can’t reach them. And protect yourself while using these substances by using gloves and eye glasses.
  • Use sunscreen cream in case of extensive exposure to the sun.








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