Key Points about Burns

  • First-degree burns are the mildest form of burns.
  • Common causes of minor burns include exposure to hot water, electricity, or sun.
  • Most minor burns can be treated at home with a cold compress, aloe vera, honey, or an antibiotic ointment. 

Overview

Minor burns, or first-degree burns, are burns that affect only the top-most layer of skin. They may be moderately painful, and appear red, irritated or swollen.

First-degree burns can usually be effectively treated at home, and should heal within three days to three weeks.

Call your doctor if you think your burn may be infected, if it starts to swell and become severely painful, or if it was caused by electricity.

Minor burn causes

First-degree burns occur when excessive heat causes the affected skin cells to die. Minor burns can be caused by:

  • Hot water
  • Electricity
  • Sunburns

Minor burn risk factors

Exposure to hot water, sun, or electricity can increase your risk of first-degree burns.

Minor burn symptoms

Symptoms of minor burns include:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Skin peeling after several days

Minor burn diagnosis

Most minor burns do not require medical diagnosis. If you seek care for more severe burns, your doctor will assess your symptoms and classify your burns as first, second, third or fouth-degree, according to severity.

Minor burn treatment

To treat minor burns at home:

  • Apply a cool, wet cloth to the burn to reduce swelling
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen

You can also apply the following treatments to the area to promote hydration and recovery:

  • Unscented, oil-free lotion
  • Aloe vera
  • Honey
  • Antibiotic creams

When to seek care

Call your doctor if your burn:

  • May be infected
  • Starts to swell
  • Is severely painful
  • Appears mild but was caused by an electrical burn

Next Steps

Your mild burns should recover within three days to three weeks. If they do not improve after this time, you may have experienced a more severe second, third, or fourth degree burn.