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First Aid Advice: How to Treat Burns

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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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With summer upon us, we are all spending more time outside and the possibilities of getting sunburned, burned by a backyard grill, or burned by Fourth of July fireworks is at an all-time high.

In this Q &amp A, ABCNEWS Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson provides the details on how to prevent and treat burns as part of Good Morning America's "First Aid Test" series.

Question: There are a lot of old wives' tales when it comes to treating burns. Should you ice pack a burn as soon as possible to reduce pain and swelling? True or false? Answer: False. Ice or an ice-pack can actually cause frostbite in the burned area. However, you should quickly cool the burned area in any way possible such as running cool water over the area, immersing it in cool water or using cool water compresses. Cooling as quickly as possible helps to reduce pain and swelling. Question: Most everyone has sunblock, but do they know the best way to use it? For instance, you should apply sunblock? A) As soon as you go out into the sun B) Two hours before going into the sun C) 30 minutes before going into the sun Answer: C. The optimal time to apply sunblock is 30 minutes before you go outside. Question: You should never put anything other than water on a burn. True or false? Answer: False. While it is true that you shouldn't put butter or first aid pain ointments on a burn, you can put lotions such as those containing aloe vera on a burn once it is completely cooled. If the burn is second degree with no covering blister, you can also use antibiotic ointments such as bacitracin ointments or a nonprescription 1 percent hydrocortisone creams as directed by your doctor. Question: There's always a lot of confusion about blisters. Should you leave the covering of a blister in place even when the blister is broken. True or false? Answer: False. If a blister has not broken, you should leave it in place. However, once it has broken, if you leave the skin of the blister in place it can provide a good breeding place underneath for germs leading to infection. So once the blister has broken, you should remove the dead skin carefully with small scissors and then treat the burned area with appropriate ointments and coverings as directed by your physician. 

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