First Aid for Burns
Updated: Oct 19
According to the World Health Organization, liquid, hot tap water, or steam burns account for nearly 75% of all burns in young children. Another 20% are "contact" burns caused by touching a hot object such as a clothes iron or hair appliance. Learn how to avoid burns and keep children safe.
What you should do if your child suffers a burn depends on the severity of the burn. Simply put, there are three types of burns, and knowing how to treat each one quickly and efficiently is critical.
First degree. The skin turns red, but it does not blister. It is somewhat painful, like a sunburn.
Second degree. The outer layer of skin is burned, and some part of the dermis is damaged. The burn will be very painful and will likely develop blisters.
Third degree. The skin will be charred or white. The epidermis and dermis (top two layers of skin) are irreversibly damaged.
Any electrical burn or burn in which the skin is charred, leathery, burned away, or has no feeling is severe and should be treated immediately.
Any blistering, swollen burn that covers an area larger than the size of your child's hand, or a burn on the hand, foot, face, genitals, or over a joint, is a serious injury that should be treated by a pediatrician or in an emergency room right away.
If you are concerned about a burn, even if it does not appear to be one of the types listed above, you should consult a pediatrician.
My child has a minor burn. How should I treat it?
The majority of minor blistering burns can be treated and cared for at home. If you have any doubts about whether a burn can be treated at home, consult your doctor.
Here's what to do:
Cool the burn. Run cool running water over the burn for about five minutes. This helps stop the burning process and decreases pain and swelling. Do not put ice on a burn. Do not rub a burn, because this can worsen the injury. Do not break blisters as this can increase the risk of infection at the burn site.
Cover the burn. Cover the burned area with a clean bandage that will not stick to the burned site. This helps decrease the risk of infection and decreases pain.
Protect the burn. Keep the burn site clean with gentle washing with soap and water. Do not apply any ointments to the burn site unless instructed by your pediatrician. Never apply butter, greases, or other home remedies to a burn before discussing with your pediatrician, as these can increase the risk of infection as well.
If my child's burn is still painful after I have cooled it for 5 minutes and covered it, what should I do?
The burn will almost certainly be painful. Don't forget to give your child pain medication and reassure him or her to stay calm.
Will my child's burn leave a scar?
The more severe the burn, the more likely it will scar. Minor burns that do not blister heal without leaving scars. Blistering burns may leave a scar or heal a different color than the surrounding skin.
Keep burns covered until they have healed with new skin and do not weep any fluid to reduce scarring. After this time, the burn can be left uncovered, but it should be protected from the sun for a year to avoid skin darkening. Sun protection can take the form of clothing or sunscreen.
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