Second-degree burns affect the epidermis, the top layer of skin, as well as the dermis, which is the second layer. These burns may be painful and are often marked not only by redness and swelling, but also by blistering. In many cases, a small, second-degree burn blister can be treated at home. This typically involves caring for the burn and then applying a bandage or dressing that protects the blistered area yet allows air to circulate to the burned skin; you may also apply antibiotic cream to prevent infection.
The first step in treating a minor burn blister starts with proper care of the burned skin. This usually involves allowing cool water to run over the affected area for five to 15 minutes. Alternatively, you may soak the burned skin in cool water for the same amount of time. In some cases, it also helps to apply cool compresses to the affected area to help reduce pain. It is important, however, to use cool water and cool compresses rather than ice water or ice that is applied directly to the skin.
Once you have finished with the cool water or compresses, the next step is covering the burn blister with a dressing or bandage. It's important to use a bandage or dressing that protects the area but allows the skin to breathe. Using this type of bandage can not only prevent infection or further injury, but also help to facilitate healing. You may use moleskin for this purpose or sterile gauze secured with surgical tape. Some people also apply antibacterial ointment before applying a bandage.
Since burn blisters may continue to cause pain after first aid treatment has been applied, you may consider taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help minimize the discomfort. Sometimes applying a lotion or cream to the area can help reduce discomfort as well. Typically, such topical treatments are applied after the skin has cooled completely and only if there are no open wounds in the area.
In some cases, it is best to seek professional help for treating a burn blister. Second-degree burns that cover more than a couple of inches may warrant a trip to a doctor. Likewise, burns that are on the feet, buttocks, or genitals may require treatment by a health care professional. If the blister remains painful or doesn't appear to improve within about two weeks, you may do well to seek medical attention.