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Superficial Burn


What is a superficial burn?

A superficial burn, or first-degree burn, is when the outer layer of skin has been burned.

Common signs and symptoms of a superficial burn include the following:

  • Red, dry, tender skin
  • Swelling
  • Area turns white when touched

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a burn to the face, neck, hands, or genitals.
  • Your burn covers a large area such as your trunk or entire arm or leg.
  • You have increased redness, numbness, or swelling in the superficial burn area.
  • You have red streaks or blisters spreading outward from the superficial burn.
  • Your pain is not relieved, or is getting worse even after you take medicine.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a superficial burn

may not be needed. A superficial burn usually heals in 3 to 5 days without scarring or blisters. Use the following first-aid guide to treat your burn:

  • Remove clothing and jewelry immediately.
  • Flush liquid chemicals from your skin completely with large amounts of cool running water. Do not splash the chemicals into your eyes.
    Run cool water over area of burn
  • Brush dry chemicals off your skin if large amounts of water are not available. Small amounts of water will activate some chemicals, such as lime, and cause more damage. Do not splash the chemicals into your eyes.
  • Run cool or cold temperature water over the burned area for 10 minutes. A cold or cool compress can also be put on the burn. Do not use ice or ice water on the affected area. This may cause more damage to the skin.
  • Use an antibacterial ointment or skin cream, such as aloe vera cream, to soothe the skin. Do not put butter, petroleum jelly, or other home remedies on skin burned by a chemical.
  • Do not put a bandage on the burn until you are told to do so by your healthcare provider.

Prevent superficial burns:

  • Do not leave cups, mugs, or bowls containing hot liquids at the edge of a table. Keep pot handles turned away from the stove front.
  • Do not leave a lit cigarette. Discard it properly. Keep cigarette lighters and matches in a safe place where children cannot reach them.
  • Keep your water heater setting to low or medium (90°F to 120°F, or 32°C to 48°C).
  • Wear sunscreen that has a sun protectant factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. The sunscreen should also have ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. Follow the directions on the label when you use sunscreen. Put on more sunscreen if you are in the sun for more than an hour. Reapply sunscreen often if you go swimming or are sweating.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Superficial Burn (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex