How Do I Treat a Steam Burn?

Steam burns can be very serious, and in most cases the best treatment is a professional one — calling a doctor or other health provider for advice specific to your situation is usually the best course of action. Burns caused by steam don’t often seem like they’d be as serious as those caused by flames or even scalding water, but initial impressions can be deceiving. If the skin feels hot to the touch for an hour or more after exposure or if blisters appear, expert medical care is often the best way to minimize the damage. In the case of more superficial burns, though, there are a few home remedies that will work, including cool compresses, aloe vera gel, and “masks” of things like honey and mashed banana. It’s really important that you keep an eye on the burn and make note of whether treatments are working. If there’s no change after a day or so or if things seem to be getting worse, it may be time to turn things over to a professional.

Running cool water over a steam burn can help alleviate some of the burning pain.

Assess Severity

A steam burn occurs when rising steam makes contact with the skin, causing the skin to become red and irritated. The first thing you should usually do when thinking about treatment options is to assess the severity of your situation. Burns that appear pale red and white but are not very painful may require medical attention. These burns are often much deeper than they look, and damage may have been done to the nerve endings. Perplexingly to many, simple red patches that are hot and painful to the touch are more likely superficial. The pain in these cases is the body’s reaction to the immediate contact, but extensive damage isn’t as likely.
It’s also important to notice how much skin has been impacted. Burns one just one small patch of skin are usually easier to monitor than those that cover the entire face or both legs, for instance, and they’re also likely to be less severe. In general, the shorter the contact time the less severe the burn, though a lot of this is dependent on the temperature and density of the steam.

Basics of Cooling

One of the first things most burn victims complain of is heat at the site of contact, and your initial instinct is probably going to be to try to cool your skin off. This is generally a good idea, but there are certain precautions you’ll need to take. For instance, you should never use ice directly on your skin since this can do further damage to the area. Running cool water over the burn is usually a better option. A cold compress may also help reduce the warmth of the burn, but if the compress is frozen, putting a towel or light cloth between it and your skin can help the cold from shocking the site of the injury. In general the compress should be held against the skin for intervals of about three to five minutes.

Ice packs and cold compresses can be applied to steam burns to help with the pain

Treating Blisters

Blisters are usually a sign of a serious skin injury. They don’t typically appear immediately, but may begin surfacing shortly after a cold compress is applied, or otherwise within an hour or so of exposure. You may want to seek medical attention if you notice these, since these blisters can become infected pretty easily. If you aren’t able to get help, simple first aid techniques may also be used. The affected area should be thoroughly cleansed with a gentle antiseptic and covered with bandages. Bandages should be changed a few times a day to prevent infection from forming. Although it can take a while for the skin to recover, blisters should be allowed to heal on their own and should never be popped or touched.

Common Home Remedies

Burns that don’t seem serious after a bit of time may also benefit from the use of certain home remedies. For example, aloe vera gel may be coated over the affected area to soothe the burn and help speed up the healing process. Honey is another common treatment. Layering a thick coating of raw or unfiltered honey to the affected area can help seal in moisture and can protect the site from infection. Most people will tightly cover the site with plastic wrap or a waterproof bandage for up to 48 hours, at which point the skin should be thoroughly washed and patted dry.

A mixture of mashed over-ripe bananas and rosewater might also help reduce inflammation, and some home remedy experts make a paste of sandalwood, turmeric, and olive oil. This is only recommended for minor burns, however, as oily products are frequently thought to keep heat in rather than get rid of it.

Importance of Watching

Most minor steam burns will go away on their own as the skin begins its healing process. If your condition seems to be getting worse, though, or if you don’t see any improvement after a few days, it’s usually a good idea to get a professional opinion. The burn may be more serious than you think, and if this is the case home remedies may be doing more harm than good.