Burn Care Guidelines 2nd & 3rd Degree Burns
Remember, never use ice on a burn. It decreases blood flow and prevents healing.
Second Degree Burns appear open, shiny and moist, or blistered. These burns are painful and sensitive to touch. These burns may be treated at home, in the clinic, or in the hospital. Second degree burns often take 1-3 weeks to heal.
Third Degree Burns appear dry or leathery, white, brown, maroon or black. These burns are not sensitive to pain. Third degree burns often take greater than 3 weeks to heal or need skin grafting. These burns are treated at home only if they are quite small.
Follow the burn care treatments below marked with an X.
_____ Remove the dressing. Do not soak to remove it. Dry dressing removal cleans away dead tissue and debris.
_____ Wash burns gently once a day with Dial® soap. Wash off antibiotic cream, blisters, and loose skin. Rinse well. A small amount of bleeding may be expected. Facial burns should be washed twice daily.
_____ Remove antimicrobial cream/ointment from jar with a tongue blade or gauze to prevent contamination of the jar.
_____ Apply _________________________ antimicrobial cream or ointment to the burn two times per day (about 10-12 hours apart).
_____ For facial burns – apply antibiotic ointment twice a day, and more often if face becomes dry. No gauze is needed on the face.
_____ For ear burns – apply _____________________ antimicrobial cream twice a day. Do not get cream in the ear canal. It may build up and plug the ears. Apply gauze to ears.
_____ Apply a non-stick gauze such as cuticerin.
_____ Wrap all burns except the face and ears with non-stretch roller gauze. Extra layers of gauze may be needed if the wound is weepy.
Stop Smoking. Smoking decreases blood flow and oxygen to new and healed burns. It slows down the healing process.
How to Apply an Ace Bandage
_____ Apply ace bandages to feet and legs over burn dressings to prevent swelling or bleeding into the burn. See Health Facts for You #4406, Leg Ace Bandaging.
How to Prevent Swelling
_____ Face or head burns—rest head on 2 or more pillows.
_____ Hand or arm burns—rest hand or arm on pillows above the level of the heart as much as you can.
_____ Foot and leg burns—keep feet and legs up on pillows when sitting or in bed.
Watch for Signs and Symptoms of Infection
- Redness (about 1 inch in width) and swelling around the burn.
- Foul smelling drainage or pus from the wound.
- Flu-like symptoms (temperature greater than 100.4º by mouth for two readings 4 hours apart, chills, nausea, vomiting or muscle aches).
- Increasing burn pain.
_____ Take pain pills 1 hour before dressing changes.
_____ Between dressing changes use Tylenol® (acetaminophen or extra strength acetaminophen) to treat pain. You will have less pain as the burn heals. The burn feels stiff or like it is being pulled as it heals.
_____ Exercise to keep joints moving and to stretch new skin.
_____ Drink plenty of fluids, 8-10 (8 oz.) glasses in 24 hours, to prevent dehydration.
_____ Eat a well balanced diet high in carbohydrates and protein to help the wound(s) heal.
_____ Use moisture creams to prevent drying and cracking. Healed skin appears dull red or pink.
_____ Apply moisture creams such as Elta lite®, Aquaphor®, Eucerin®, or Nivea® as often as needed to keep the skin moist and soft. Avoid creams with alcohol or numbing agents.
For questions Monday through Friday 8 AM - 5 PM please call the General Surgery and Burn Clinic at 608-263-7502.
If you have urgent questions or needs after hours or on weekends, please call the Burn Unit Nurse at 608-263-1490 or call 608-262-2122 and ask to have the Burn resident paged.
If you have non urgent questions or needs after hours or on weekends, please leave a message for the General Surgery triage nurse at 608-890-9542.
If you live out of the area, you can call toll free at 1-800-323-8942.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #5468
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 04/15/2013
Copyright © 04/15/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4573
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