Causes of burned fingers

Burning your finger can be incredibly painful because there are many nerve endings in your fingertips. Most burns are caused by:

  • hot liquid
  • steam
  • building fires
  • flammable liquids or gases

Treating a burned finger can be done at home. However, if you experience a more serious burn, you may want to visit your doctor.

Burns on your fingers — and anywhere else on your body — are categorized by the levels of damage they cause.

  • First-degree burns injure the outer layer of your skin.
  • Second-degree burns injure the outer layer and the layer underneath.
  • Third-degree burns injure or destroy the deep layers of skin and the tissue underneath.

Burn symptoms are typically related to the severity of the burn. Symptoms of a burned finger include:

  • pain, although you shouldn’t judge how bad your burn is based on your pain level
  • redness
  • swelling
  • blisters, which can be filled with fluid or broken and leaking
  • red, white, or charred skin
  • peeling skin

Burn first aid focuses on four general steps:

  1. Stop the burning process.
  2. Cool the burn.
  3. Supply pain relief.
  4. Cover the burn.

When you burn your finger, proper treatment depends on:

  • the cause of the burn
  • the degree of the burn
  • if the burn covers one finger, several fingers, or your whole hand

Major hand and finger burns

Major burns:

  • are deep
  • are larger than 3 inches
  • have patches of white or black

A major burn needs immediate medical treatment and a call to 911. Other reasons to call 911 include:

  • burned fingers after electrical shock or handling chemicals
  • if someone who’s been burned shows signs of shock
  • smoke inhalation in addition to a burn

Prior to the arrival of qualified emergency help, you should:

  • remove restrictive items such as rings, watches, and bracelets
  • cover the burn area with a clean, cool, moist bandage
  • raise the hand above the level of the heart

Minor hand and finger burns

Minor burns:

  • are smaller than 3 inches
  • cause superficial redness
  • make blisters form
  • cause pain
  • don’t break the skin

Minor burns require immediate action but often don’t require a trip to the emergency room. You should:

  1. Run cool water over your finger or hand for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. After flushing the burn, cover it with a dry, sterile bandage.
  3. If necessary, take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  4. Once it’s cooled, put on a thin layer of a moisturizing lotion or gel such as aloe vera.

Minor burns will usually heal without additional treatment, but if your pain level doesn’t change after 48 hours or if red streaks start spreading from your burn, call your doctor.

When performing first aid on a burned finger:

  • Don’t apply ice, medicine, ointment, or any household remedy — such as butter or oil spray — to a severe burn.
  • Don’t blow on a burn.
  • Don’t rub, pick, or otherwise disturb blistered or dead skin.

Although most home remedies for burns aren’t supported by clinical research, a 2011 study showed that applying honey to second- and third-degree burns was an effective alternative to a silver sulfadiazine dressing, which is traditionally used to prevent and treat infections in burns.

As long as a burn on your finger isn’t too severe, basic first aid will put you on the road to full recovery. If your burn is major, you should seek immediate medical attention.