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What are the treatment options for burns?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Minor burns are usually treated at home by putting a cooling agent (such as cold water) on the burn, covering it in antibiotic ointment and a bandage, and taking some over-the-counter pain medication. More serious burns may have a variety of treatment options, depending on the severity. Antibiotic creams may still be used in order to prevent infection. Elevation of the burned area to prevent swelling may also be necessary. In serious cases where the skin won't heal properly, skin grafts may be used. Severe cases usually require fluids, as dehydration can be an issue, and surgery. Physical and occupational therapy are often needed as well.

Treatment options for burns depend on the type of burn. Most burns can be treated at home. People might need a dressing to keep the area clean and to stop germs from getting in. Third and fourth degree burns must be treated in the hospital, by the burn team. This is because these burns can’t heal on their own. The burn team will change the dressings a couple of times a week or whenever it’s needed. They will also make sure people have pain medicine if they need it. People may need extra fluids to replace the water lost through damaged skin, and extra nutrition to help the wound heal. An operation may be needed to remove the burned skin and to clean the area around it.

Burn treatments include:

  • antibiotic ointments
  • skin grafts using pig skin, someone else's skin or your own skin

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.