Kitchen Burn? Don’t Ice It!

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Kozub Vasyl)

The other day I accidentally picked up a very hot pan and burned my fingers. I immediately did what I always do when I get a minor burn: apply something cold, usually an ice cube wrapped in a towel, for several minutes. But this turned out to not be the best idea.

It’s important to first acknowledge that we’re discussing minor burns here (first-degree and some second-degree) and that any severe burn should be treated by a medical professional.

→ Know when to get medical attention: For a description of burns and how to treat them, see this page from the Mayo Clinic.

(Image credit: Dana Velden)

Why You Shouldn’t Treat Burns with Ice

Back to my ice cube. My research explained to me that ice is not recommended, as it can also cause frostbite on now extra-delicate skin.

While I haven’t experienced any difficulty with ice cubes, I will bow to modern medical wisdom and not recommend their use. I do know that the sooner I apply something cold, be it running the burned area under cool running water or pressing something cool from the refrigerator up against it, the better. I find that if I do this as quickly as possible and for as long as possible, the burn doesn’t bother me as much.

Some first aid websites suggest applying an ointment and wrapping the burned area in gauze, and others do not. Old-timey remedies — like smearing the burn with butter or egg whites, and (ahem) pressing with ice — are not recommended.

How do you treat minor burns that happen in the kitchen?

Updated from a post originally published in October 2011.