Cover burns with cling (plastic) wrap

ER & First Aid
229

After a burn or scald to your skin, the first things you need to do is get to safety, stop the burning process and assess just how bad the burn is. But after that, you might just want to reach for some plastic wrap! That’s because plastic creates a sterile, clear barrier that both protects the burn and allows you (and a doctor) to still see it.

Before you use, go through the checklist to make sure the burned area is cooled enough to prevent continuing skin damage. Then, unroll a few inches of the cling wrap, rip off and throw away. That gets rid of any pieces that may be dirty. Apply the wrap by layering strips over the burned area. Do NOT wrap it around (e.g., an arm, leg, trunk, finger) because it could add pressure to the wound if the area swells.

Burn First Aid Checklist

  1. Get to a safe place away from additional burn danger.
     
  2. For powder chemical burns, gently brush any powder away.
     
  3. Remove any loose clothing around the burned area that may hold in heat. DON’T remove any material (or anything else) that appears stuck to the skin (for instance, if the burn was caused by hot tar or wax).
     
  4. Run the burned area under COOL water for about 20 minutes. DON’T use cold or icy water. You can run the whole area, clothing and all, under the cool water if there are materials you shouldn’t remove.
     
  5. Keep the rest of your body warm while you cool your burned skin. Take off any tight clothing our jewelry that could be a problem if the wound starts to swell.
     
  6. Do NOT touch the burn, put cream our oils on the area or pop any blisters.
     
  7. This is when you can use the plastic wrap to cover the wound on route to a doctor’s office or emergency room.

When is a Burn an Emergency?

A burn is severe enough to go to the emergency room when:

  • It is on the face, eyes, ears, hands, feet or genital area--areas more likely to cause permanent damage.
     
  • There is any charring or whitish marks on the skin (signs of a 3rd or 4th degree burn). Generally, 3rd and 4th degree burns are more painful than 2nd degree because nerves are damaged.
     
  • It covers a large area of the body (more skin than the palm of your hand).
     
  • There is redness, swelling, or liquid or a foul odor coming from the wound (signs of infection).
     

It appears minor at first, but then worsens over time—more painful, more red or swollen, the visible skin appears darker. This is a clear sign the burn is deep and damaging.

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