Burns are described in terms of degree. A first-degree burn reddens the skin without breaking it. A second-degree burn does not break the skin, but it causes not just redness but also swelling, pain, and blistering. A third-degree burn extends all the way through the skin to the tissues beneath it. The burn itself may cause no pain at all because it destroys the nerves in the skin, but the tissues around the burn may cause intense, unbearable pain.
First-degree burns smaller than the size of the palm of the person who has the burn are OK to treat with home remedies. Any first-degree burn that covers a larger body area, or a burn on the fingers, face, or genitals, requires medical attention. Second- and third-degree burns are best treated by doctors.
Cuts are breaks in the skin caused by an identifiable injury. Cuts that show gaps in the skin or that bleed profusely, and any cut that becomes infected should be treated by a doctor. Most cuts, like most burns, are best treated with home remedies.
10 general rules you needs to know about skin burns and cuts home remedies
The objective of home remedies for skin burns and cuts is to keep minor problems from becoming major problems. Sometimes less care is actually better than more. Here are 10 general rules everyone needs to know about home remedies for skin burns and cuts.
- Rinse a small first-degree burn with cool water (never cold) to remove heat and stop the burning process. Never rub ice on burned skin, since this can stop circulation that is needed to clear away inflammatory chemicals and fight infection.
- Rinse a small cut with warm water to remove dirt and debris, and then cover with antiseptic ointment and a clean bandage.
- Use aloe on both burns and cuts. It stops pain and encourages formation of new skin. It also moisturizes the skin, keeping it from cracking and peeling.
- Use gotu kola creams to prevent scarring. Scars form during a period of weeks or months of uninterrupted skin inflammation. Gotu kola keeps the fibers of collagen that support the skin from intermingling with the debris of dead skin cells left by the burn or cut. Gotu kola sometimes erases existing scars—one clinical trial found that small scars were reversed in 22 out of 27 users of the herb in 90 days.
- Antibiotics are used to treat infection, not to prevent it.
- If you have diabetes, monitor any cuts on the fingers, toes, hands, or feet daily for signs of infection. By the time skin turns black, you may have a much more serious problem than the original burn or cut, so be vigilant. Let a doctor treat skin infections if you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you cannot see your feet, have someone inspect them for you daily if they are cut or burned.
- An Amazon rainforest herb called sangre de grado forms a '"second skin" over small burns and cuts. It is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and it protects the skin from additional injury. Sangre de grado is usually applied as an ointment that dries to the consistency of a bandage—without the actual use of a bandage—almost instantly.
- Taking up to 500 mg of supplemental vitamin C a day may accelerate healing of small burns and cuts. More is not necessary.
- An extreme low-fat diet slows down healing from burns and cuts. The omega-6 essential fatty acids, which are found in foods like corn oil, flaxseed oil, eggs, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, hemp oil, and avocados, are essential for the body to make the inflammatory hormones that "clean out" injured skin cells so new, healthy skin cells can take their place.
- Aromatherapy really can reduce the pain of a burn or cut. Apply 5 to 10 drops of lavender oil to a clean, moist washcloth, apply to washcloth to your forehead and lie down. The scent of lavender dulls the sensation of pain, especially from burns.
There are five things you need to know about home remedies for burns
- Your first priority in first aid for a burn is always stopping the burning. Remove yourself or the burn victim from the fire. Douse flames. Wash off chemicals.
- Don't try to peel clothes away from a burn. This should only be done by trained medical personnel.
- Be aware that electrical burns are almost always deeper and more serious than they first appear.
- After initially rinsing a first-degree with cool water, use loosely applied, cool, wet compresses to reduce pain and inflammation. Never cover a burn with petroleum jelly, butter, or margarine, since these all contain chemicals that irritate the skin.
- Don't break blisters. If blisters become infected, see a physician for treatment.
Both cuts and burns are often accompanied by bruises. Also known as ecchymoses, bruises are pools of blood that accumulate at a site of injury to the skin. A bruise changes color as the hemoglobin in the blood inside it breaks down. At first the red blood appears as a blue bruise through the skin. As enzymes break down hemoglobin into other chemicals, the bruise will appear yellow or green.
It's possible to fight bruising with enzyme supplements and citrus bioflavonoids. Bromelain, a digestive enzyme found in pineapple, breaks down proteins. Taking the dosage of bromelain recommended by the manufacturer of the bromelain product will help break down the proteins in skin that keep blood trapped in a bruise.
Citrus bioflavonoids, usually derived from orange peel, contain compounds that stop the growth of new blood vessels right around a wound in the skin. This lets blood flow away from the wound so it is much less noticeable. These useful citrus compounds also help skin cells cope with low oxygen levels caused by burns or cuts. Citrus bioflavonoids are usually labeled as hesperidin and come in mixtures with rutin, a co-factor for vitamin C.