Burns may heal faster covered. Burns need moisture and protection from the elements to heal. Covered burns retain moisture better, are protected, and often itch less, which may stop you from scratching, thus reducing risk of infection and further scarring.
How should I cover a burn?
There are two primary ways to cover a healing burn:
- Pressure garments
- Dressings (gauze, bandages)
You can use pressure garments to hopefully minimize hypertrophic (i.e., raised, uneven) scars and to limit pain and scarring following a skin graft procedure.
Dressings protect the burn from further injury and keep dirt and foreign matter from getting into the wound, which may cause an infection. Covering a burn also protects it from sun exposure, which may cause darkening of the scar tissue.
There are several different types of dressings you can use, including:
Hydrocolloid dressings: These dressings, recommended for only first- and second-degree burns, adhere to the skin to keep out contaminants. You only need to change a hydrocolloid dressing every three to five days. Hydrocolloid dressings contain a gel that reacts with the burn and works to debride (i.e., remove dead tissue) the burn.
Polyurethane film dressings: Polyurethane film protects your burn from the elements (e.g., water and bacteria) while allowing water vapor and oxygen to transfer through the film. This helps keep the burn moist and prevent infection.
Hydrogel dressings: Hydrogel dressings, which are more absorbent than film dressings, help keep burns moist and help with wound debridement.
Silicon-coated nylon dressings: These dressings have a mesh structure that allows drainage from the wound.
Biosynthetic skin substitute dressings: These dressings “mimic a function of skin by replacing the epidermis or dermis, or both,” according to the Cochrane Review. They also allow fluid exchange which helps prevent infection.
Antimicrobial dressings: A study in the Journal of Medical Microbiology found that antimicrobial dressings containing silver reduced the amount of several different types of bacteria commonly found in burns.
Fiber dressings: These dressings regulate fluid excretion and help prevent contamination. Ask your doctor about the best course of action; in some cases, fibers can unravel and get stuck in your burn.
Wound dressing pads: This is likely what you think of when you think about a dressing — gauze, medicated or non-medicated, that you apply directly to the wound.
Note: As always, you should check with your doctor to determine whether you should cover your burn and what you should cover it with.
How long should I keep my burn covered?
You should wear pressure garments as directed by your doctor. Your doctor will explain how long and how frequently you should wear the pressure garments. Usually, victims wear pressure garments 23 hours a day, removing them only for bathing and reapplying moisturizer. Doctors often recommend victims wear pressure garments for many months, even a year or two, after the burn heals.
If you have a second- or third-degree burn that your doctor covered with bandages or other dressings, you should wear the dressings for as long as directed. Your team will give you instructions on how frequently to change the dressings, and when to stop using the dressings.
If you have a first-degree burn, you should remove the bandages, gently clean the wound, and apply a fresh layer of ointment several times a day, or as directed by your doctor. Check the burn for signs of infection every time you change the dressings. Make sure you use a clear ointment so you will be able to see any changes in the wound. (See our page on the best creams or ointments for burns.)
Do not use bandages for longer than 10 days for a superficial (first-degree) burn. This is because if your first-degree burn wound has not healed in 10 days, it may be a more serious burn, for which you should seek medical attention. It may also be infected, which can be a serious, even life-threatening complication. If you suspect your burn may be infected, seek immediate medical attention.
If you suffered a burn that somebody else caused, you may have grounds to file a claim for your injuries and recover compensation for your expenses and losses. Call our lawyer referral specialists at 844-549-8774 to get connected with a lawyer who can help.