How to treat Superficial or 1st Degree Burns

Superficial Burns



These are burns which only effect the Epidermis. Sunburn is a typical example.

What does burn thickness mean? and what difference does it make?

Burn thickness is important because the different layers of the skin all have different functions. Your skin protects and insulates you. It can grow new skin, regulate body temperature, grow hair, guard against infection and communicate with your brain about what your environment feels like. The supple flexibility of your skin allows you to move and breath.

How deep a burn penetrates through the layers of the skin determines which of these functions may be damaged and which of these functions may be lost forever. A close inspection of the texture, moisture, color and general appearance of a burn will give you important clues regarding what thickness or “degree” of burn the patient has suffered.

I cannot stress enough, that after removing the patient from the source of the burn, COOLING of the burn is your really important FIRST aim, even before you've had a chance to evaluate the depth or extent of the burn. Just COOL IT.

You may just stop a lesser burn from escalating into a major burn.

If a garden hose is not available, well soaked towels will do, but change them frequently.
Contact burns, scalds and fire burns can continue to penetrate tissue for many minutes, gasoline fire burns can continue to penetrate for up to 17 minutes, so you need to apply COOLING for at least 20 minutes to stop the damage from penetrating further.

NEVER use COLD or ICED WATER, only COOL water, and only for 20 minutes, otherwise blood circulation to the burns site may be restricted.

1st degree or Superficial burns

These burns involve only the uppermost layer of the skin, also known as the epidermis. The epidermis is a thin layer of cells that coat the outer surface of the body. This thin coating of cells is what we traditionally think of when we reference the skin.

The epidermis functions primarily as a protective layer. It protects us from infection and UV rays.

    Burns of the epidermis are red and painful. They do not tend to blister.

    The most typical variety of superficial burn is sunburn.
    Contact burns that redden and hurt but do not blister are also classified as superficial burns.

    Blisters are the first sign of damage to the dermal layer below the epidermis. If blistering is apparent, and the area is greater than 1%


After the initial cooling, and the COOLING is the really important part, a Burn Cream or Aloe Vera can be applied to keep the air currents from causing pain.