After the initial first aid, scald injuries will likely need some ongoing treatment. For a minor scald, the treatment may be simple and of short duration. For a more serious scald, the treatment will be more involved, and may last for months or longer. Below, we discuss how to treat burns and scalds, prevent infection, and minimize scarring.

How can I tell how severe my scald is?

If your scald is small, with no blisters, and it looks no worse than a sunburn, it is likely a minor scald. These are also called superficial or first-degree scalds.

If your scald is large, has blisters, or looks worse than a sunburn, it is likely a more serious scald.

Note: It can take a few days for blisters to develop. If they develop at any time, have a doctor check out your burn.

What is the treatment for a minor scald?

You can likely treat small, first-degree scalds at home. After the initial first aid, let the scald cool and dry. Examine it again to see if blisters have formed, or if there are color changes. If your scald looks white or is charred, you need emergency medical attention.

Keep the scald wound clean. After the wound has cooled, cover with ointment and a sterile dressing. Check the scald wound daily when you change the dressing. If the scald wound gets worse or does not heal in ten days, see your doctor.

Your scald might itch as it heals; do not scratch it or you risk introducing bacteria into the wound.

What are the treatments for a significant scald?

There are multiple treatment options for significant scald injuries:


After a severe scald, a patient can face a condition called compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome occurs when pressure builds up in the muscles, decreasing blood flow. It may be necessary to cut the membrane surrounding the tissue (the fascia) open to release this pressure and to allow proper blood circulation. This procedure is called a fasciotomy.

Without treatment, compartment syndrome can lead to permanent muscle damage or amputation.

Skin Grafting

If the skin is badly damaged by the scald injury, the skin may be unable to regenerate and grow healthy, new skin. In these situations, skin grafts are often necessary.

Surgeons harvest healthy tissue from an uninjured area of the patient’s body, a cadaver, or an animal to place on top of the damaged tissue. In some cases, surgeons use synthetic or semisynthetic tissue for the grafting material.

Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery can make scars less noticeable, particularly on the face and throat and other places often within public view. Plastic surgery can:

  • Help make scar tissue more flexible
  • Release contractures
  • Increase range of motion flexibility

With serious damage, reconstructive surgery may be appropriate.

Will I need to be on a special diet?

Maybe. When healing itself from severe scalds and burns, the body needs more nutrients. Your burn team will likely create a nutrition plan for you. Your burn team might limit your fats and carbohydrates and increase your intake of proteins.

What medications help treat scalds?

Medications can make a patient with serious scald injuries more comfortable. Pain medication can make the healing process more bearable, and can promote quicker healing. In addition to ongoing pain medication, your burn team might give you a dose of pain and anxiety medication before dressing changes and debriding (i.e., removing dead tissue to allow new, healthy tissue to grow).

Certain medications can prevent or treat significant problems that can arise after a serious scald injury. Your doctor might administer antibiotics to prevent or treat infections in the wound. You might also need a tetanus shot.

Should I put anything on a scald?

Depending on your scald, your burn team might apply an ointment or dressing, or have you fit for pressure garments.

Ointments and dressings can keep the scald wound well-hydrated and prevent itching and infection. Ointments and dressings can also provide topical pain relief.

Pressure garments can help prevent scars from forming, or to reduce the severity of scars. Injured victims wear pressure garments nearly 24 hours a day for months or longer.

What kinds of therapy are used to treat scalds?

Physical and occupational therapy can help prevent a loss in range of motion and flexibility. These therapies also help restore strength and function, and to teach the patient how to accomplish daily tasks again after a serious scald injury.

How can I afford scald burn treatment?

Treatment for a minor scald will cost hardly anything; however, a severe scald can cost thousands of dollars. If your scald resulted from another party’s negligence, you might be entitled to compensation. Call our legal referral specialists at 844-549-8774 to connect with a lawyer that can help you review your legal options.