After exposure to an open flame, heat, electric current, or radiation, you or someone you love may end up with a burn. They’re unsightly, painful, and may leave a scar you’ll never forget! This is why you’re here - trying to learn how to heal a burn fast.
Hopefully, a medical provider has prescribed you an effective burn treatment that reduces pain, prevents infection, and heals the skin faster. But that’s not always the case, especially if you are treating your burn from home.
If you want to know how to heal a burn faster regardless of its severity, keep reading. We want you to avoid all of the common mistakes and follow every proven burn healing method available to you.
Before we discuss the best ways to heal burns fast (and some things to avoid), let’s discuss the different degrees of burn injuries - as treatments can look different depending on the severity of your burn.
Different types of burns
Generally, burns are classified by their severity, which affects how quickly the burn heals and what treatment to use for how to heal a burn fast. A doctor can determine the degree of a burn based on the depth and the amount of affected skin.
The treatment for a first-degree burn won’t have the same effect on second-degree and third-degree burns, which typically take longer to heal. Let’s take a look at what constitutes a first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree burn.
First-degree burns, also called superficial burns, are the most common burn injury. They only affect the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) and are categorized as mild skin injuries. Generally, first-degree burns heal quickly after only a few days.
Common causes of first-degree burns include sunburns due to intense exposure to UV rays, or scalding from hot liquids or objects (like frying pans).
If you have any of these accidents, you can learn how to heal a burn fast at home without requiring medical attention, depending on the injured area of the body. It can take anywhere from three to 20 days for a first-degree burn to heal completely.
Second-degree burns are considerably more severe than first-degree burns and require a doctor’s examination. They are also known as partial thickness burns, and they affect the skin's outer layer AND the skin's second layer (dermis).
Second-degree burns can raise cause for concern when they affect larger areas of the body, joints, face, or genitals. Second-degree burns can result from exposure to physical sources of heat such as iron, electricity, or chemicals like bleach or acid.
Partial-thickness burns may appear wet looking with blisters. They also come with intense pain.
Third-degree burns, sometimes called full-thickness burns, describe the extent of the injury. They destroy the skin, can damage the underlying nerve endings, and always require hospitalization. The burned area may appear white, gray, black, brown, charred, or yellow.
In addition, third-degree burns damage the whole skin, including the surrounding tissue, usually requiring a skin graft. These severe burns typically occur from exposure to open flame, explosions, chemical attacks, and scalding liquids.
Another major concern is that third-degree burns are prone to infection. People who get third-degree burns may be hospitalized at a special burn unit, where they may get surgery to clear the burn site and remove burned tissue.
You also need to continue wound care after leaving the hospital as part of how to heal a burn fast. Some people may need to use antibiotics and pain medication to prevent infection and cope with the pain of the burn injuries.
Put simply, third-degree burns are nothing to take lightly!
Regardless of the severity of your burn, you will want to know how to treat it properly and swiftly. Before we get into our top tips for how to heal a burn fast, let’s discuss a few things to avoid while treating burns.
Top mistakes when treating burns
When learning how to heal a burn fast, costly mistakes can worsen the injury and delay recovery. Here are the top mistakes to avoid when treating burns.
Applying ice on burn wounds
Many people make the mistake of using ice on the burned area, and while this offers relief, it causes more harm than good. Applying cold water or ice can damage tissue around sensitive skin. It can also lower your body temperature to extreme levels, impairing your body’s response to stress.
Instead, you can use a moderate cooling compress or run the affected area under room-temperature water for a few minutes. You can also use a lotion or burn cream to cool the wound site if it doesn’t require emergency care.
Pressing the blisters
First and second-degree burns tend to cause redness and leave blisters which may be quite painful. Try to resist the temptation to pop the blister if you are trying to learn how to heal a burn fast.
If you do pop your blisters, you will risk infection and other complications that can affect the healing process.
Ideally, you should seek medical attention if you have a burn that has turned into blisters. A healthcare provider can drain the blisters and dress the wound to protect the skin from more damage.
Taking oral antibiotics
Most people’s reaction after a burn injury is to take antibiotics to prevent infection, but this is unnecessary and can cause more damage. Normal, healthy skin has a fair amount of bacteria living on it daily, and taking oral antibiotics can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the body - not just on your skin, but in your digestive tract.
In addition, taking antibiotics when you don’t need to can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance. Instead, you can rub an antimicrobial cream directly on the wound, and this treatment will be targeted to the specific area.
Using unproven home remedies
Not all home remedies are helpful. Some are downright harmful. For instance, some people use butter, mayonnaise, toothpaste, or rubbing alcohol on their burns for fast relief,
Can you put alcohol on wounds? Absolutely not! It can kill off healthy tissue and bacteria, and make your burn wound worse than it started out. Not to mention - OUCH!
There are many unverified recipes and homemade treatments sharing “secrets” on how to heal a burn fast at home. But it’s better to find trusted sources backed up by scientific research, or go to your doctor to ensure your burn is being treated properly.
Signs your burn is getting worse (and you should see a doctor)
Ideally, after a mild first or second-degree burn, you won’t need to see a doctor. Hopefully you can learn how to heal a burn fast with first aid treatments at home. But that’s not always the case. You may need to seek medical attention if you see signs of your burn wound not healing after a couple weeks.
First-degree burns will hurt after direct contact with the heat source. However, you should feel some relief after using a cooling compress or ointment. If you feel the same intense pain a few days after, you need to see a doctor.
Some burns start as superficial, but the injury can progress and worsen over time. It may be due to infection or skin sensitivity that the condition of the healing burn is deteriorating.
A healthcare provider will provide adequate care and ensure that the wound starts healing on schedule.
Some burns leave blisters that dry up after a few days, which is common with first-degree burns. But when you notice large blisters that don’t heal in this timeframe, it’s a good idea to go to a clinic. You should avoid popping the blisters on your own lest you risk infection.
Signs of infection
Even first-degree burns are at risk of getting infected, which is why the first few days after a burn accident is very important. You must ensure proper treatment and learn how to heal a burn fast without risking infection.
Regardless, if you start to experience fever or observe yellow or green discharge in the affected area, you should go to the emergency center. It is essential to take quick action before the wound becomes worse or has grievous consequences.
Change in thickness
Most superficial burns affect the outer layer of the skin, but heal after a few days. However, if the burn extends into the deeper part of the skin, you should see the doctor. It is vital to act immediately to prevent the infection from getting worse.
If you don’t see any of these symptoms, or you have already been treated by a doctor, then it's time to focus on how to heal a burn fast from home.
Recommended treatments for minor and significant burn wounds
Here are our top treatments for how to heal a burn fast - along with specific recommendations by burn severity.
Cool water or compresses
As soon as possible after receiving a burn, you want to cool the area down. This will prevent your skin tissues from continuing to burn after the heat source or chemical is removed. Of course, as mentioned above, truly cold water and ice are not the answer.
Instead, our first tip on how to heal wounds faster after burns is to use lukewarm to cool water, or a cool (but not ice cold) compress to gently cool off the affected area.
Honey is a safe and effective treatment for mild to moderate burn wounds. This includes first and second-degree burns as well as acute and chronic wounds. Studies have found that honey has antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiviral properties.
But healer beware, you can’t use any honey.
Medical-grade honey, also called manuka honey, is sterile and proven safe to use. If you’re wondering how to heal a burn fast, you can try medical-grade honey dressings or honey gels.
Aloe vera gel
Many studies have found that aloe vera gel can effectively heal first and second-degree burns. Aloe vera is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that helps pain management and fast healing. It is also a major ingredient in many commercial skin lotions and cosmetics to stimulate skin growth and repair.
You might like to try aloe vera gel as an option for how to heal a burn fast, however, aloe vera gel is only recommended for minor burns. You shouldn’t use aloe vera on open wounds resulting from major burns to avoid tissue damage.
By using antimicrobial creams, you can prevent infection without impacting your body’s normal bacterial response. It will also prevent antibiotic resistance since you’re only attending to the affected area.
You can use antibiotic creams for all kinds of burns, including first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree burns. However, you may need other remedies like aloe vera or honey to promote skin growth and repair.
You’ve probably heard about the many collagen benefits for skin from skincare experts. But did you know that collagen can help with how to heal a burn fast? In fact, collagen wound dressings have been found to beat conventional dressings when sterilizing burn wounds.
Collagen benefits for skin aren’t just on the surface. It can help to promote wound repair and improve the skin and connective tissues underneath. Collagen supplements also stimulate slow-healing wounds and help to form new granulation tissue to fill in the burn site.
Collagen peptides benefits also include distributing protein-building amino acids to the skin to protect and repair the damaged area. Because of these benefits, there are medical uses for collagen protein, from injury prevention, to surgical wound healing, to practicing how to heal a burn fast.
Using liquid protein for wound healing has been shown to be more effective for repairing tissue damage from major second-degree and third-degree burns.
A 2020 study showed that hydrolyzed collagen-based supplements could significantly improve wound healing and clinically reduce hospital stays in patients with 20-30% burn.
Of course, like most supplements, collagen supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to get your supplement from a trusted source. Otherwise, you might not receive as many collagen benefits for skin as you hoped!
One sure way to get high-quality collagen is to find medical-grade collagen. This type of collagen supplement IS FDA-regulated, and is also overseen by medical professionals during production. Medical-grade collagen will be safe (and effective) to use for how to heal a burn fast from home.