Treating minor cuts and burns

Winter can be a season for minor cuts and burns. Below are tips for treating them at home. If a cut or burn is more serious, head to the ER.

With holiday gatherings upon us, most of us are in the kitchen preparing holiday treats or re-heating holidays treats. Both count as cooking. 😉

Treating minor cuts and burns at home

Kitchen accidents, involving minor cuts and burns, can easily happen.

Cuts from a sharp knife or a piece of glass are very common. They often occur while people are preparing food, washing dishes, or even crafting. All it takes is a slip of the knife or a dish breaking, and suddenly there’s blood. However, while these types of cuts are startling, most can be safety treated at home.

If there is a lot of bleeding or if bleeding is hard to stop, go to an emergency department. If the wound is extremely painful, that also requires a doctor’s care. If you have numbness associated with a wound, it could mean you have nerve damage.

To treat a minor cut, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and lukewarm water. A great tip about washing hands is to sing the happy birthday song twice. Then you know you have washed them long enough. For little ones, turn it into a game. Wash you hands with them and say. “I have more bubbles than you.” Usually, they will start trying to create more bubbles.
  2. Wash the cut to prevent infection. Use cool or lukewarm water and a mild soap or cleanser to gently remove dirt. The key is gently.
  3. Stop the bleeding. Apply pressure to the cleaned cut using a clean washcloth or gauze. Maintain pressure for one to two minutes or until the bleeding stops. Raise the cut above your heart, if needed, to stop the bleeding.
  4. Apply petroleum jelly. This will help keep the wound moist for faster healing. Make sure you keep the cut covered with petroleum jelly until the cut heals. To help prevent the spread of dirt and bacteria, consider using petroleum jelly from a tube instead of a jar. Use a cotton swab to get the petroleum jelly from the tube or jar. Use a new cotton swab if you need more. Do not apply topical antibiotics. Topical antibiotics and other antibiotics used with wound care contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Further, the use of these antibiotic creams and ointments can sometimes irritate the skin and possibly cause contact dermatitis.


Treating minor cuts and burns at home

Although first-degree burns are not as serious as higher-degree burns, they can hurt quite a bit and can leave a scar if not properly treated. First-degree burns are very common and frequently occur after one accidentally touches a hot stove, curling iron, or hair straightener. Unlike second- or third-degree burns, which are more severe, first-degree burns only involve the top layer of the skin.

First-degree burns: red, non-blistered skin

Second-degree burns: blisters and some thickening of the skin

Third-degree burns: widespread thickness with a white, leathery appearance.

Most first-degree burns can be treated at home; however, it’s important to know what to do. Although first-degree burns aren’t as serious as higher-degree burns, they can hurt quite a bit and can leave a scar if not properly treated.

To treat a first-degree burn, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  1. Cool the burn. Immediately immerse in cool tap water or apply cold, wet compresses. Do this for about 10 minutes or until the pain subsides.
  2. Apply petroleum jelly two to three times daily. Do not apply antibiotic ointments, toothpaste, or butter to the burn, as these may cause an infection or irritation.
  3. Cover the burn with a non-stick, sterile bandage. If blisters form, let them heal on their own while keeping the area covered. Do not pop the blisters.
  4. Consider taking over-the-counter pain medication. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.
  5. Protect the area from the sun. You should always protect your skin from the sun, but be more careful with sun exposure as a burn is healing and after the burn heals. Once the burn heals, protect the area from the sun by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing or applying a Broad-Spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30. This will help minimize scarring, as the redness from a burn sometimes persists for weeks, especially in those with darker skin tones.

First-degree burns usually heal on their own without treatment from a doctor. However, if your first-degree burn is very large, if the victim is an infant or elderly person, or if you think your burn is more severe, go to an emergency room immediately.

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