What To Do Immediately After Burning Your Hand

Burns are an extremely common injury. Each year, 398,000 people receive medical treatment for burns, and over 29,000 are hospitalized. Since many people do not see a doctor for a minor burn, the actual incidence of burns in America is undoubtedly much higher. It’s important to know what to do if you’ve sustained a burn so you can seek proper treatment as quickly as possible.

Identify the Severity of the Burn

Burns can cause three degrees of damage. These are defined by the number of skin layers affected by the burn.

Know When To Seek Emergency Burn Treatment

If you’re suffering from a severe burn, you need to seek emergency medical attention. Serious burns should not be treated at home. Get to an emergency care facility as quickly as possible if:

While transporting the burned individual or waiting for emergency help to arrive, you can provide basic care for the burn by removing any clothing or jewelry that comes into contact with the wound. Loosely cover the burn with a clean cloth or gauze so additional debris cannot get into the wound. Elevate the burned area over the person’s heart if possible. Make sure the individual is breathing and look for signs of shock. This may include shallow breathing, a weak pulse, or clammy skin. Call 911 if the person stops breathing or goes into shock.

What To Do After a Minor Burn on My Hand

If you’ve suffered only a minor burn on your hand, you can proceed to treat the burn at home. The following steps will help you reduce pain, clean the wound, and protect your burned hand from further damage.

Use Cold Water

Immediately place the burn under cool running water. The water should be slightly colder than room temperature, but it doesn’t need to be freezing. You can keep your hand under the faucet or cover it in a cold, wet cloth. Continue this treatment for 10 to 15 minutes. At this point, the initial pain should subside.

Remove Restricting Items

Remove anything that’s constricting the area of the burn. On your hand, this may include rings, bracelets, or watches. You should take these items off as quickly as possible. Don’t wait until you’re done running your hand under water, because the swelling may have started by this time. If you don’t take rings off immediately, your hand may swell to the point where you can no longer comfortably remove these items.

Cover the Burn

Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or aloe vera gel to the burn. This will keep the burn from drying out. You can apply a pain relief gel that’s formulated for burns, but you should not use a topical antibiotic. Keep the wound covered as it heals. This will help prevent infection and protect the area from further damage. Always cover the burned area if you’re outside, as the sun can worsen a burn and cause more severe scarring.

Manage Pain

If you’re suffering ongoing pain from the burn you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and naproxen are all effective for pain associated with a burn. Follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding how much to take and how often to take the medicine.

Common Questions About Burn Treatment

‘What to do after burning my hand,’ is just one question we commonly hear about burn treatment. Here are some other frequent concerns.

Should I Put Butter on a Burn?

No, you should not put butter on a burn. This is often touted as a good home remedy, but the butter holds in heat when you want to release it. Butter can also contaminate the burn with bacteria depending on how it is stored.

Should I Ice a Burn?

No, you should not put ice on a burn. Stick with cool water despite the temptation to seek icy relief.

Is It OK To Pop Blisters on a Burn?

No, you should not pop blisters. Your body forms these pockets of fluid to help protect and heal the wound beneath it. Keep blisters intact as much as possible. If a blister breaks, apply an antibiotic ointment and keep the area covered.

Do I Need a Tetanus Shot for a Burn?

If you haven’t had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, you should get one for a burn. The burn creates an open wound that you can contract tetanus through.

How Long Does It Take a Burn To Heal?

A first-degree burn should heal in seven to 10 days and may peel as it does so. Keep the burn covered throughout this period. Second-degree burns will usually heal in two or three weeks. Third-degree burns are extremely severe. It’s difficult to estimate the recovery time for this type of injury.

Specialized Care for Serious Burns

If you’ve sustained a serious burn on your hand, you should speak with a specialist about how to properly treat the wound. Proper care is essential to restore comfort and functionality to your hand. Our experts at The Hand and Wrist Institute can develop a comprehensive treatment plan for your burn so your hand gets the care it needs.

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.