How do I deal with minor burns?

Treating minor burns

To treat superficial (minor) burns at home, follow the advice below.

  • Cool the skin with running cool or tepid water for at least 10 minutes, ideally within 20 minutes of the injury happening. This will prevent the burn getting worse.
  • Do not use ice, iced water, creams, or greasy substances (such as butter) to soothe the burn.
  • Remove any clothes or jewellery from around the burn, unless they are sticking to it.
  • Cover the burn using strips of cling film, rather than wrapping it around a limb. A clean plastic bag is suitable to use for burns on your hand.
  • If the burn is painful, taking a mild painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help. However, always check the packaging to make sure that you take the correct dosage and never give aspirin to children under 16 years of age.
  • Do not interfere with the burn, or break any blisters. If the burn is very painful, or seems to be getting worse, call NHS 111, or visit your GP for advice.

If you're in any doubt whether you need further medical assistance, call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Deep, or large burns, or burns to the face, hands, or across joints, must always be checked by a doctor and may require hospital treatment. 

Treating chemical burns

If a chemical, such as bleach or acid, burns your skin, you should follow the advice below.

  • Wearing protective gloves, remove any chemicals from the skin by running the affected area under cool tap water for 20 minutes, or more. If the chemical involved is in powder form, such as lime, brush it off the skin before running the skin under water.
  • Remove any jewellery, or clothing, that may have been exposed to the chemical.
  • Apply a cool wet towel to help relieve pain.
  • If you experience an increased sensation of burning, rewash the skin for several more minutes.

You should call 999 or visit your local accident and emergency (A&E) department, so that the burn can be assessed and, if necessary, treated.

Treating electrical burns

Electrical burns may not look serious, but they can be very damaging.

Someone who has an electrical burn should seek immediate medical attention. Visit your local accident and emergency (A&E) department, or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 09/02/2015

Next review due: 31/12/2017