Should You Put Ice on a Burn (or Not)?

The Short Answer from a family medicine physician

Should You Put Ice on a Burn (or Not)?

Q: If you burn yourself, should you cool it off with ice?

A: No, you should not use ice, or even ice-cold water, on a burn. Extreme cold applied to a burn can further damage the tissue.

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To properly cool and clean a burn, remove any clothing that covers it. If clothing adheres to the burn, don’t peel it away. (This may cause more damage to the underlying skin.)

The best thing to do for a minor burn is to cool it off by running the burned area under cool water for about 5 minutes. You can also apply a clean, cool, wet cloth.

Then clean the area using mild soap, and apply topical antibiotic cream to protect the area from infection.

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If your skin blisters, don’t rupture the blister; that may increase the risk of infection. You can cover the area with a sterile, non-stick dressing.

You can take over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease the inflammation and the pain.

—Family medicine physician Amber Tully, MD

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