Burns can occur from exposure to heat, steam, hot liquids, chemicals or the sun and occur more often than anyone would like. That leads many to wonder how to treat a burn.
Ultimately, the treatment of burns depends on the severity of the burn, but there are home remedies that can help.
Severe burns can destroy all layers of skin and even damage muscles and underlying fat. These burns need immediate medical attention, and natural therapies can help with wound healing and decreasing pain.
Wondering how to treat a burn at home? I’m about to tell you some of the best natural remedies that can reduce the risk of infection and help areas heal without scarring.
What is good to put on a burn? To help heal burns naturally, home remedies for a burn include applying essential oils, antioxidants and plant compounds topically. You can also reduce your intake of foods that increase inflammation and slow healing while eating more anti-inflammatory foods that promote optimal healing.
Types of Burns
Burn symptoms can include red skin, swelling, pain and blisters. For a really bad burn, it can take one to two days for symptoms to be fully present.
How can you tell if a burn is minor enough to be treated at home? The severity of symptoms can help you figure out the degree of your burn. It can also help you to figure out whether or not you need medical attention.
Depending on the level of skin damage, burns are typically categorized as follows:
- First-degree burn: This is the most minor type of burn that affects only the outer layer of the skin known as the epidermis. Symptoms can include redness and pain.
- Second-degree burn (also known as partial thickness burns): This burn affects both the epidermis and the dermis (the second layer of skin). It can result in swelling and red, white or splotchy skin. Blisters can develop and pain can be severe. A deep second-degree burn can result in scarring of the skin, potentially causing a keloid.
- Third-degree burn: This severe burn goes all the way down to the fat layer beneath the skin. Burned areas can be black, brown or white, and the skin can appear leathery. Third-degree burns can destroy nerves, resulting in numbness.
The best way to treat a burn depends upon the type of burn. First-degree burns often occur from common activities around the house, especially in the kitchen.
The following popular internet searches will give you an idea of common causes of minor burns: “how to treat a burn from a hot pan,” “how to treat a burn from boiling water,” “how to treat a grease burn” or “how to treat a burn from melted sugar.”
Unfortunately, I bet you are familiar with at least one of these circumstances that can easily result in a burn to the skin.
While serious burns require immediate medical attention, the good news is a first-degree burn is typically easy to treat with natural home remedies.
What is the best way to treat minor burns? Let’s take a look now!
How to Treat a Burn (Home Remedies)
1. Cool It Down
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to treat a burn on finger, how to treat a burn on hand or how to treat a burn anywhere else on your body, the first thing you want to do is cool down the affected area. Put the burned skin under cool running water, or apply a cool, wet compress for about five minutes. The running water should help to calm down any pain.
As much as it may seem like a good idea, do not use cold water or ice.
2. Top Foods for Burns
If you’re wondering how to heal a burn fast, don’t forget to focus on your diet! These are some of the top things you’ll want to consume to promote healing:
- Water: Drink plenty of water or electrolyte drinks like coconut water to help replenish lost fluids.
- Citrus fruits: Include fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, which promote collagen production and skin healing.
- Wild-caught fish: Include sources of omega-3 fats to reduce inflammation and help with tissue repair.
- Zinc: Zinc plays a major role in regulating every phase of the wound-healing process. To increase your intake of zinc-rich foods, you can add grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds and spinach to your diet.
- Clean, lean protein: Protein is necessary to rebuild tissue. Aim for at least four to five ounces of high-protein foods per meal daily.
3. Foods that Slow Healing (What to Avoid)
While it’s important to consume anti-inflammatory foods, it’s also equally important to steer clear of inflammatory foods. These include:
- Sugar: Sugar promotes inflammation in the body and is counterproductive to healing.
- Trans and hydrogenated oils: Processed foods contain hydrogenated oils, which promote inflammation and decrease the ability of your body to heal.
- Processed foods: Processed foods may contain chemicals, dyes and other questionable additives that may slow healing.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera, with its calming and cooling properties, has a long history of use for burns. In fact, many decades ago in 1959, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of aloe vera ointment as an over-the-counter medication for treating burns on the skin.
Look for an aloe vera gel that is at least 99 percent pure. You can apply the gel two times daily to promote healing.
5. Vitamin E
Experiencing a burn causes oxidative stress to the body and can deplete vitamin E, especially if it’s a really serious burn. While study results haven’t been super impressive, one of the most popular uses of vitamin E is the treatment of burns, scars and wounds, and some research has confirmed it help treat wounds.
For instance, a 2022 study published in the Journal of Burn Care & Research concluded: “To the benefit of subjects it has been shown that enteral or parenteral vitamin E supplementation can prevent, mitigate, and even reverse the effects of thermal burn injuries, infection, and sepsis.”
You can load up on vitamin E-rich foods, take a supplement or use a topical vitamin E.
Zinc is critical for enzymatic reactions for healing as I mentioned earlier. Taking a zinc supplement can help to boost levels if you don’t think you’re getting enough in your diet.
L-glutamine is an amino acid required for tissue healing and to prevent infections related to burns. According to a scientific article titled “Nutrition and Chronic Wounds,” published in 2014, “There is evidence in situations of trauma, burns, and sepsis that glutamine supplementation improves gut function, decreases septic complications, and improves insulin sensitivity, suggesting the presence of the amino acid in insufficient quantities.”
8. Antioxidant Supplements
9. Essential Oils for Burns
Lavender oil is one of the best home remedies for a burn. A research study published in 2016 demonstrates how lavender ointment promotes effective wound healing, “making it a promising candidate for future application as a therapeutic agent in tissue repairing processes associated with skin injuries.”
A single-blind, randomized, clinical trial published in 2016 also shows how aromatherapy massage using lavender essential oil and the inhalation of the oil can reduce pain and anxiety in burn victims.
For burn relief and to heal cuts, scrapes or wounds, mix three to five drops of lavender oil with ½ teaspoon of coconut oil, and apply the mixture to the area of concern. You can use your fingers or a clean cotton ball.
While lavender essential oil can help heal burns, frankincense oil may help reduce scarring, and tea tree oil can reduce the risk of infection. To heal burns fast, try this homemade burn ointment with lavender, honey and olive oil. You can include a few drops of frankincense and tea tree oils in the recipe too for additional therapeutic benefits.
How to Treat a Burn Conventionally + When to Visit a Doctor
Depending on the type of burn you have, conventional burn treatment will vary. Major burns that involve a more severe degree of skin damage require emergency care while a minor burn does not and is a good candidate for natural home remedies.
To help guide you, remember that major burns:
- are deep
- can cause the skin to be dry and leathery
- can look charred
- include patches of white, brown or black
- are larger than three inches in diameter
- cover the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint
A minor burn results in superficial redness to the skin (similar to a sunburn), pain, possibly blistering of the skin and/or involves an area that is not larger than three inches in diameter.
How to treat a first degree burn conventionally
How to treat a second-degree burn conventionally
Depending on the severity of the second-degree burn, treatment can include antibiotic ointments, pain relievers, wound cleaning and dressing changes, and/or systemic antibiotics. A second-degree burn that does not cover greater than 10 percent of the skin’s surface can often be treated in an outpatient setting.
How to treat a third-degree burn
If a third degree burn covers a large area of the body, intravenous (through the vein) antibiotics may be administered to prevent infections. Intravenous fluids may also be given to replace fluids the body lost as a result of experiencing the burn. Third-degree burns sometimes require skin grafting or the use of synthetic skin.
What about chemical burns?
If you’re unsure of how to handle a chemical burn, you can contact the United States National Poison Hotline (1-800-222-1222), your local poison control center or the emergency department of your local hospital. Conventional recommendations for how to treat chemical burns are typically to:
- immediately flush the area with cool running water for 10 minutes at least
- remove jewelry or clothing that also came in contact with the chemical
- cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage (no fluffy cotton) or a clean cloth, and wrap it loosely so you don’t apply any pressure to the burn
When to See a Doctor
For a severe or major burn, seek medical attention immediately rather than turning to home remedies for a burn. While waiting for medical assistance, remove any jewelry or tight clothing from the burned area if possible. Ideally, removal should be quick and gentle before the burned area swells up.
For any burn, contact your doctor if you begin to have any new or unexplained symptoms, signs of infection (including increased redness and swelling, oozing, or a greater level of pain), a burn or blister that doesn’t heal within two weeks, or significant scarring.
Remember that when it comes to how to treat a burn blister, you should not break any blisters that have formed. While they may be annoying, those blisters filled with fluid are guarding you from infection.
If a blister happens to break on its own, you should clean the area with mild soap and water. You can apply a clean, dry, loose bandage to cover the area if you’d like.
If you have a chemical burn to the eyes, you should always seek emergency medical care.
Speak with your doctor before using any new natural remedies or supplements if you are pregnant, nursing, being treated for an illness or are currently taking medication.
- Burns can occur from exposure to heat, steam, hot liquids, chemicals or the sun. The treatment of burns depends on the severity of the burn.
- First-degree burns can typically be treated easily at home.
- How to treat second-degree burns involves proper blister care, which includes not popping those protective blisters that form.
- Third-degree burns or major burns always require emergency care.
- Natural home remedies for a burn include:
- Eating healing foods, including those rich in vitamin C, zinc, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and staying hydrated.
- Avoiding foods counterproductive to burn healing, like sugar, processed foods and trans fats.
- Applying aloe vera, vitamin E and essential oils like lavender topically.
- Taking antioxidant supplements like vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and flavonoids that can help counter oxidative stress caused by a burn.