A first-degree burn is also called a superficial burn or wound. It’s an injury that affects the first layer of your skin. First-degree burns are one of the mildest forms of skin injuries, and they usually don’t require medical treatment.

The symptoms of first-degree burns are often minor and tend to heal after several days. The most common things you may notice at first are skin redness, pain, and swelling. The pain and swelling may be mild and your skin may start to peel after a day or so. In contrast, second-degree burns blister and are more painful due to an increased depth of the burn wound.

For a first-degree burn that occurs in larger areas of your skin, you may experience an increased level of pain and swelling. You may want to report large wounds to your doctor. Larger burns may not heal as fast as smaller burns.

Common causes of superficial burns include the following:

Sunburns

Sunburn develops when you stay out in the sun too long and don’t apply enough sunscreen. The sun produces intense ultraviolet (UV) rays that can penetrate the outer layer of your skin and cause it to redden, blister, and peel.Shop for sunscreen

Scalds

Scalds are a common cause of first-degree burns in children younger than 4 years old. Hot liquid spilled from a pot on the stove or the steam emitted from hot liquid may cause burns to the hands, face, and body. 

Scalds can also occur if you bathe or shower in extremely hot water. A safe water temperature should be at or below 120˚F. Temperatures higher than this can lead to more serious skin injuries, especially in young children. 

Electricity

Electrical sockets, electrical cords, and appliances can appear intriguing to a young child, but they pose considerable dangers. If your child sticks a finger or any object into the openings of a socket, bites on an electrical cord, or plays with an appliance, they can get burned or electrocuted from exposure to electricity.

Treating burns and scalds

  • immediately get the person away from the heat source to stop the burning
  • cool the burn with cool or lukewarm running water for 20 minutes – do not use ice, iced water, or any creams or greasy substances like butter
  • remove any clothing or jewellery that’s near the burnt area of skin, including babies’ nappies, but do not move anything that’s stuck to the skin
  • make sure the person keeps warm by using a blanket, for example, but take care not to rub it against the burnt area
  • cover the burn by placing a layer of cling film over it – a clean plastic bag could also be used for burns on your hand
  • use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat any pain
  • if the face or eyes are burnt, sit up as much as possible, rather than lying down – this helps to reduce swelling
  • if it’s an acid or chemical burn, dial 999, carefully try to remove the chemical and any contaminated clothing, and rinse the affected area using as much clean water as possible

MCP First Aid Training provides a comprehensive range of regulated training courses in the management of burn trauma.

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