CPR First Aid

Is Cold Water the First Aid for Burned Finger?

When you burn your finger, cold water is probably the first aid applied because it cools the skin and eases the pain. But is it the appropriate first aid for burned finger or burns in general? Or other first aid practices must be followed? Let’s find out below and see which first aid responses are the most effective in treating burns on parts of the body like the finger.

First Aid for a Burned Finger

The first aid steps for treating a burned finger are:

  1. Run cool water over the burned finger for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Cover the burned finger with a dry, sterile bandage.
  3. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if necessary.
  4. Apply a moisturizing lotion or gel once the burned finger has cooled down.

As mentioned above, cold water is indeed the first aid for a burned finger. However, it is only applicable for minor burns as other levels of a burn require another first aid management.

Cold water is first aid for burns, but minor ones only; severe burns need different care.

Different Levels of Burns

A level of burn is identified based on the effect it has on the skin. The higher the level of burn, the more severe it is. Let’s find out more about these below.

First-degree Burn

The level of burn with the lowest severity is the First-Degree Burn, which is also called superficial. It is considered the least severe because only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) is affected. For a finger, only the outer skin is burned which will look red and dry. If this is the only visible effect of the burn on the finger, the above-mentioned first aid response may be applied.

However, even if there is no blister, the burned finger will feel painful and may look lighter or darker after the incident. There may also be long-term damage to the tissue inside the finger, but it may be unlikely to happen. A burned finger acquiring only a first degree may be caused by:

  • Mild sunburn
  • Contact with a hot stove
  • Contact with a hot liquid

Our fingers are usually the first part of the body that gets in contact with hot materials especially when cooking.

Second-degree Burn

A more severe burn on a finger is called a Second-Degree Burn, also called partial thickness. When this occurs, both the outer and part of the lower layer (dermis) of the finger is affected. If burned, both the outer and inner skin of the finger will look red and blistered. The finger will also feel swollen and painful. Long-term damage may be minimal scarring. A finger may be burned at a second degree if exposed to:

  • Scalding with hot water
  • Candle wax burn
  • Burn from household appliance
  • Hot oil burn

These are common household items that we may be cautious of to avoid having our fingers burned.

Third-degree Burn

The next severe burn is the Third-Degree Burn, also called full thickness. When a finger is burned to the third degree, its epidermis and dermis are affected and destroyed. In addition, the innermost layer (subcutaneous tissue) of the finger’s skin may also be damaged. The finger’s epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue may all look white or blackened and charred. A finger may acquire long-term effects like permanent disfigurement, scarring, and impairments. A finger may be at a third-degree burn if it was burned by:

  • Fire.
  • An electrical source.
  • A chemical source.

An electrical source may be electrical wiring while a chemical source can be bleach.

Fourth-degree Burn

The most severe burn is the Fourth-Degree Burn. To this degree, all the layers of the skin on and in the finger are affected, including the deeper tissue (which includes the muscle and the bone). The burned finger may look charred and there will be no pain felt as the nerve endings are also destroyed. Long-term effects may be recurrent infections and permanent damage to the muscle and tissue of the burned finger. Some causes of fourth-degree burns to fingers are:

  • Contact with a hot stove or oven.
  • Exposure to open flames like a fireplace and campfire.
  • Exposure to chemicals.
  • Injuries acquired from a building fire.

These may be found at home or outdoors.

First Aid for a Finger Burned in Higher Degrees

Since the first aid for a burned finger above is only applicable if it is only a first-degree, let’s find out below how the remaining burn degrees may be treated.

First aid for minor burns works for first-degree. Discover treatment for other degrees below.

First Aid Treatment for Second-Degree to Fourth-Degree Burns

If a finger was burned at higher degrees, the below first aid process may be followed:

  1. Remove the burned finger from the source.
  2. Check if the other fingers, the hand, the arms, any additional body part, or the whole body was burned too.
  3. Check if the person is breathing, if not, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is advised.
  4. If the burned finger has accessories, remove them. If other parts of the body are affected, free them from any tight clothing and/or accessories.
  5. Cover the burned finger with a clean cloth.
  6. Lift the burned finger above heart level if possible.
  7. If aside from the finger, other parts are also burned, the person may experience signs of shock. If so, watch out if a person experiences any of these and relay the information to the emergency help once they arrive.

Higher levels of burns may occur on the fingers and the other parts of the body. When this happens, additional first aid treatment must be done like performing CPR which may be learned in a first aid course in 123C Colin St West Perth 6005. In doing so, further complications may be avoided and a finger, a body part, or a person’s life may be saved.

Possible Complications from Higher Degrees of Burns

If a finger and/or other body part is severely burned, the following complications may be experienced according to Mayo Clinic.

Severe burns may cause complications such as pain, infection, and scarring (Mayo Clinic).


When a finger and/or other body parts are burned, it may lead to a low blood volume (hypovolemia). It occurs when the body loses fluid (blood or water) which may lead to serious complications if left untreated.


Sepsis is a bloodstream infection that may have been a result of a bacterial infection. This is possible on a burned finger or part as there is already a break in the skin.


Hypothermia occurs when there is a dangerously low body temperature. This is a possible effect of burns as there is a loss and degradation of the skin according to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services.


These are the scars or ridged areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.

Other Possible Complications

A burned finger and/or body part may also lead to:

  • Breathing problems.
  • Bone and joint problems.

All of which may impose long-term effects on a burned finger and/or body part and may even cause an emergency risk to a person’s life if not treated immediately.

Safety Tips to Avoid Getting your Finger Burned

To avoid the possible complications from having your finger and/or other body parts burned, the following safety tips may be remembered:

  • Do not leave a stove being used unattended.
  • Do not put hot liquids in a very accessible area.
  • Do not put electrical appliances near a sink or a water source.
  • Check the temperature of the food before holding its plate.
  • Do not allow children to come near heat sources especially if it is being used as they may unintentionally play with the buttons or locks.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Keep electrical cords and wires properly.
  • Purchase of a fire extinguisher and/or installation of smoke detectors may be done.
  • Wear protective gloves, clothing, and eyewear when using chemicals.
  • Keep chemicals, lighters, and matches out of the reach of children.

It may be important to be more cautious when there are children at home as they may unintentionally use or play with household items that may cause a fire.


Cold water is the first aid for a finger burned at first degree. In more severe burn degrees, different first aid responses must be done which include steps that may be learned from an accredited first aid course provider in Perth.

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