DOs and DON’Ts of Burn Care

Summer offers an opportunity to enjoy lots of outdoor adventures.  But with those adventures come increased risks of injuries. In summer months, we see an increase of patients who have sustained burn injuries.  Some people suffer a sunburn, and others burn themselves on a hot grill or a campfire. Here’s what you should do (and not do!) if you or a loved one gets burned.


1. Rinse the burn with cool running water as soon as possible, and rinse it for at least five minutes.

2. Wash the burn with soap and water and apply antibiotic ointment once a day until the burn heals.

3. If a burn causes a break in the skin, keep it covered with a clean bandage to protect it from irritation and infection.

4. Make sure your tetanus immunization is up to date.  For minor burns, your tetanus shot should have been within the last 10 years.  For major burns, your tetanus shot should be within the last 5 years.

5. Seek medical care if the burn gets infected.  Signs of infection include expanding redness and warmth of the skin, worsening pain, pus draining from the burn site, and fevers.


1. Don’t apply ice to burns.  Ice can cause frostbite and tissue damage, and it can trap heat in the skin instead of releasing it.

2. Don’t apply butter to burns.  The grease in butter will increase, not decrease, the skin temperature, causing a more severe injury.

3. Don’t break blisters.  Some burns cause the skin to blister, and it can be tempting to pop them.  However, opening a blister will create an opening for bacteria to enter, which increases the risk of infection. 

4. Don’t wait too long to seek medical attention.  If the burn is large, causing extreme pain, or seems to be getting infected, seek medical attention immediately.  Waiting too long to seek care can result in significant complications.


We hope you have a safe, happy and healthy summer!  If you need burn care, a tetanus booster, or any other medical services, make an appointment online or simply walk in to any of our six Bay Area locations to get the care you need.

Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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