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First Aid: Burns

First Aid

Scald burns from hot water and other liquids are the most common burns in early childhood. Because burns range from mild to life threatening, some can be treated at home, while others need emergency medical care.

What to Do

If your child is severely burned, call 911 right away. While you wait for help, begin these treatments:

  • Remove clothing from the burned areas, except clothing stuck to the skin.
  • Run cool (not cold) water over the burn until the pain eases.
  • Lightly apply a gauze bandage or a clean, soft cloth or towel.
  • If your child is awake and alert, offer ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain.
  • Do not put any ointments, butter, or other treatments on the burn — these can make it worse.
  • Do not break any blisters that have formed.

Get Emergency Medical Care if:

  • The burned area is large (cover the area with a clean, soft cloth or towel).
  • The burns came from a fire, an electrical wire or socket, or chemicals.
  • The burn is on the face, hands, feet, joints, or genitals.
  • The burn looks infected while it is healing. Signs of infection include swelling, pus, or increasing redness or red streaking of the skin near the burn area.

Think Prevention!

  • Be careful when using candles, space heaters, and curling irons.
  • Keep children away from radiators.
  • Keep hot drinks out of young children's reach.
  • Check the temperature of bath water before putting a child in the tub.
  • Check smoke alarm batteries at least once a month.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
  • Don't let young children play in the kitchen while someone is cooking.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: February 2019