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HealthInfo Canterbury

Caring for your burn at home

See the burn first aid page for what to do as soon as someone is burned.

Caring for your wound

Use non-stick dressings against the burn to keep your wound moist and clean. If a burn dries out and forms a scab, it takes longer to heal. Ask your nurse if you're not sure what type of dressing to use, how often to change it or whether you can get your dressing wet.

Burns can weep, which is normal, but you may need a second padded dressing that you change regularly to keep the outside of the dressings next to the burn dry. This helps to stop the wound from becoming infected. You need to watch for signs of infection, such as:

If any of these happen, see your doctor or nurse as soon as possible. If the burned person is feeling unwell, seek medical help urgently.

Dealing with pain

You can take regular paracetamol (Panadol). Check the packet, and talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse, to see if it's OK to take ibuprofen (Nurofen). If you need stronger pain relief talk to your doctor.

Financial help

ACC covers most burn injuries. Your doctor or registered ACC provider can fill out a burn claim form for you.

Keeping appointments

It's very important that you keep any follow-up appointments with your nurse or doctor, as burns can get worse over time.

Find out who you should contact for advice between appointments.

When you attend your appointment for a burn dressing change, take pain relief medication prior to the appointment (even if your burn is not currently painful). This is especially important for children.

Caring for healed skin

At first, your scar will be very fragile and can easily be damaged if you knock or bump it. Tell your nurse if you're worried about this. They can advise you on how to protect your wound, or refer you to the Scar Management Specialist Service for protective garments.

Your scar will also be very sensitive to the sun for at least a year. You need to cover it with a sunscreen of at least 30SPF, or with UV-proof clothing.

You will need to moisturise the skin at least twice a day to stop it from becoming dry and itchy. If the scar feels like it's becoming dry, tight or itchy, moisturise it again. Use any non-perfumed moisturiser that you know you're not sensitive to. It doesn't need to be an expensive product. If your scar continues itching, tell your GP.

You can swim once your wounds have completely healed. Protect your wound from the sun if swimming outside. Once you've finished swimming, rinse off any chlorinated or salty water and thoroughly moisturise your skin again.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Plastic Surgery Department, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed September 2017.


Page reference: 101210

Review key: HIBUR-30143