Blistering means that your burn extends deeper than the top surface of your skin, making it a second degree (or "partial-thickness") burn. A third-degree burn injures all layers of the skin so that the layers of skin and tissue stick to each other, preventing fluid pockets. (Third degree burns look leathery and dry, and can be white, brown, grey or red in color.)
Rinse and cool a small burn under a gentle stream of running water. Then gently cover it with a cool, water-soaked clean towel or cloth for a few minutes as the pain eases. Don't apply ice; this can worsen the injury. Unless the burn is very small, it is best to cover it with a clean, dry dressing, such as a gauze pad. Do this after you are done cooling it.
Don't break a blister. This can increase the risk of infection. Large blisters are occasionally drained by a doctor who can apply a bandage that will deter infection. If a second degree burn is large or involves seeping fluids, it is possible that antibiotics may be needed.
In general, small burns that occur while baking or ironing clothes can be treated at home. However, your doctor should examine your second degree burn if:
- You are elderly.
- It occurs in an infant.
- The burn involved chemicals such as gasoline or other solvents.
- The burn is more than 2 inches in diameter.
- You have not had a tetanus booster within the last 10 years.
You should also visit with your doctor if you have burned your hands, face or genitals, as these are areas with more delicate skin and a higher risk for infection.
Use over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) if your burn remains uncomfortable. If your blisters are small, you can also use an over-the-counter burn ointment to relieve pain.
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