First-degree burns, the least serious of all burns, are usually treatable at home and often require no ongoing medical attention. Treatment for a first-degree burn often includes keeping the skin moisturized and ensuring it does not worsen or sustain further damage.

Note: We recommend you have a medical professional perform the immediate first-aid to ensure your burn is not worse than you originally believed.

How should I treat a first-degree while it is healing?

If you applied a dressing to your burn, make sure you change it twice a day. If the dressing becomes wet or dirty, change it immediately. Every time you change the dressing, carefully inspect the burn. (Note: If blisters form, it is a second-degree burn, not a first-degree burn. Second-degree burns require medical attention.)

If you did not apply a dressing, you should still check your wound several times a day for blisters or infection. If you see any indication of either, you should contact your doctor.

Do your best to keep dirt and other contaminants away from your burn. If it does get dirty or soiled, hold it under cool, clean running water until it is completely clean. If necessary, gently wash the burn with a mild, hypoallergenic soap.

If your burn is painful, take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. You can also run your burn under cool water until the pain subsides.

CAUTION: First-degree burns often itch while they heal. Do NOT scratch as you could worsen your injury or cause an infection. Place a dressing over your burn to prevent scratching. Keep your nails short; this can help prevent infection if you find yourself scratching your burn at night.

Should I apply anything to my burn?

As always, you should ask your doctor first. Depending on your situation, a cream or ointment could cause an allergic reaction or make your injury worse.

If your doctor allows the use of a cream or ointment consider the following:

Look for an ointment or cream that relieves pain. Some burn ointments and creams contain ingredients that can reduce mild surface pain. Applied directly to the surface of the burn wound, these ointments and creams can be soothing.

Ensure the ointment or cream will protect your burn and keep it moisturized. Keeping a burn protected from contaminants and moisturized will promote healing and prevent complications. Consider using medicinal-grade honey or aloe vera gel. If you apply honey or aloe vera, you will likely want to apply a dressing.

Never put any of the following on a burn:

  • Butter
  • Oil
  • Toothpaste
  • Egg white

What types of dressings should I use?

Choose your dressing material with care. You have several good options. Sterile gauze, either in rolls or preformed pads, is a good choice for covering a burn injury. You might also consider nonstick bandage pads to protect your wound. Some nonstick bandage pads are infused with medication to hydrate and soothe the wound. They may also contain antibiotics.

What types of dressings should I stay away from?

You want to protect your burn from anything that could cause an infection. That means everything you use for a dressing needs to be sterile.

You should not use nonsterile household items, such as washcloths, strips of fabric, rags, napkins, paper towels, facial tissue or other paper products to cover your burn wound. In addition to causing an infection, these items can also stick to wound. It is painful to remove something that has stuck to a burn. It can delay healing if removing the stuck-on dressing peels off the top layer of the burn wound.

If you are in a pinch, you can use plastic wrap until you are able to get sterile gauze. Just make sure you tear off the first layer that comes off the roll.

How should I treat the area once it heals?

Your burn can take anywhere between three days and three weeks to heal. Ensure you follow the advice above to quicken healing time and avoid any complications.

Once your burn has healed, you should continue to keep the area moisturized to prevent scarring or complications. If your first-degree burn does scar, which is uncommon, you can apply a scar cream to reduce the scar’s appearance. Protect your burn from the sun to prevent further damage.

See our general page on burn treatment to learn more.