(HealthDay News) — Most minor burns can be cared for at home without requiring a trip to the emergency room.

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Each year, more than 500,000 people seek help for minor household burns, the U.S. National Institutes of Health says.

The severity of a burn depends on the area it covers and how deep the damage goes. First-degree burns affect only the thin top layer of skin. Second-degree burns include the thick lower layer of skin. A third-degree burn is the most serious; it penetrates the entire depth of skin, permanently destroying it and the tissue that’s underneath.

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See a doctor if the burn is dark red and looks glossy and blistery. These are signs of a second-degree burn. Get immediate treatment if the skin is dry and leathery, with white, brown or black patches. These are signs of third-degree burn.

To treat minor burns, the NIH suggests:

  • Immerse the area in fresh, cool water, or apply a cool compress for 10 minutes.
  • Dry the area with a clean cloth and cover with sterile gauze or a non-adhesive bandage.
  • Don’t apply butter, which could trigger an infection.
  • Don’t break or pop blisters.
  • OTC pain medication may be used to help reduce inflammation and pain.

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