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If You Get Burned, What’s Next?

By |2024-06-27T13:22:55-04:00June 27th, 2024|Categories: Health A-Z|Tags: , |

Summertime means fun, fireworks, and food cooked on the barbecue. It’s also primetime for burns, whether from grill flare-ups, sparkler mishaps, or barefoot walks on hot surfaces.

If you have been burned, the first step is to assess it carefully, says CentraState’s chair of Emergency Medicine Jeremy Dayner, MD.

“If the burn is on the face, hands, or feet, get to an emergency room right away,” he advises. “Second, check the size of the burn and color. If it is more than the size of the palm of your hand and/or causing discoloration of the skin, you also need to go to a hospital. Third, burns on infants and older adults most always require an emergency visit.”

Our Mighty Skin

Our skin is our body’s largest organ. It provides a protective waterproof barrier that shields us from rain, germs, harmful UV light, and high temperatures. When skin is burned, we experience fluid loss, become exposed to harmful bacteria and other microbes, and may suffer constricted blood flow and/or movement depending on where the burn is.

Minor first-degree burns affect the top layer of the skin. They usually do not blister or break the skin. They may change the color of the skin and may turn it white when pressed. The skin will be painful and may be itchy and warm. Within two to three days, it might peel. Sunburns are usually first-degree burns. Some minor burns can be treated at home.

Second- and third-degree burns affect deeper layers of the skin, will blister, be terribly painful, and the skin may look white like hot charcoal. These burns must be treated at a hospital.

Treating Burns at CentraState

The emergency medicine specialists at CentraState’s state-of-the-art level II Emergency Department can treat almost all burns within its main ED, fast-track First Care urgent care area, or fast-track pediatric unit, which is staffed by physicians who specialized in pediatric emergency care. In addition to the medical treatment of the burn, many patients need IV fluids administered in the ED.

For burns on the hands, feet, and face, and burns larger than the palm of the hands, the burn will be treated by an emergency medicine provider and also assessed by a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, hand surgeon, or other specialized physician. If treatment at a burn center or trauma center is needed, CentraState maintains affiliations with these facilities in New Jersey. The patient will be stabilized first at CentraState and then transferred to the appropriate place.

An emergency medicine physician may also recommend follow-up care at the Central New Jersey Wound Treatment Center, located adjacent to CentraState’s main Freehold campus.

Treating Minor Burns at Home

Many minor burns can be treated at home. Immediately plunge the burned area into cool or lukewarm water, then wash it thoroughly with mild soap and water. Do not use butter, toothpaste, or ice on the burn. Apply a layer of topical antibiotic cream and then cover it with a bandage, which should be kept dry and changed daily. Take over-the-counter pain relievers, drink plenty of fluids to replace fluid loss, and cover the area if you go outside.

Dr. Dayner cautions to watch for signs of infection and consult your healthcare provider if they occur. These signs include:

  • increased swelling or tenderness
  • a red streak leaving the burned area
  • drainage of green or yellow liquid from the burn
  • a change in the color or appearance of the burned area

Burn Prevention Should be Year-Round

Dr. Dayner warns that although accidental burns can happen to anyone all year long, children, teenagers, and older adults are most at risk from burns at home, including cooking injuries, spilling hot water or grabbing pot handles, turning over coffee cups, and playing with matches or fireworks. Burns in these populations most often should be treated at an ED.

“When we consider preventing burns year-round, also remember our pets,” concludes Dr. Dayner. “If the pavement is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pets’ feet. Leave them at home in high temperatures, bring them into the house after a short walk, and provide plenty of water.”


Learn more about the Emergency Department at CentraState. 

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