Treating Burns and Scalds

Seek medical help immediately if:

  • the burn area is larger than your child’s palm
  • your child has inhaled smoke, or was burnt by electric shock
  • the burn is on the genitals, face, hands, feet or joints
  • the burn is a second or third degree burn (no matter the size)
  • the burn is caused by a chemical

Immediate First Aid:

  • Remove the source of the burn: for example, douse flames with water, or wrap your child up in a blanket or a rug, and wash chemicals off the body.
  • Do not use water if your child has an electric burn, until you have removed the source of the electricity ( you may need to use a wooden broomstick to do this to prevent you from getting an electric shock).
  • Phone for medical assistance.

Treatment of burns and scalds depends on the type of burn.

First Degree Burns (scalds)

The skin is red and slightly swollen. As the burn is superficial, it is painful to the touch, and may resemble sunburn. The treatment is simple:


  • Run cold water over the affected area for 5 – 10 minutes
  • Do not apply ice, butter or anything other than special burn medication (eg: burnshield) onto the burn, and avoid covering the burn with anything that has fluff or lint that could stick to the skin. Cover the burn with a sterile dressing.
  • Do not pop any blisters that may develop – this can cause a secondary infection.

Second Degree Burns

This burn is a partial thickness burn, and is extremely painful. The burn usually blisters. Do not pop the blisters at any time, as this can lead to a secondary infection, which will impair the healing process.


Third Degree Burns

This is a full thickness burn, is extremely serious and results in black and charred skin. The burn may also look hard and white. The skin will be swollen, and may have broken open. These burns are not usually painful because the nerve endings have most likely been damaged.
Treatment of second and third degree burns is similar.


  • These burns are a medical emergency, so seek medical help immediately.
  • Apply running water to the burn for 5 – 10 minutes, or if the burn covers a large area of the body, cover it with a clean sheet soaked in cold water.
  • Remove clothing, shoes or jewellery from the burnt area, unless it is stuck to the skin.
    Treating Burns
    and Scalds
  • Avoid putting any lotions, ice or butter onto the burn, unless it is a special burn dressing (eg: burnshield).
  • Keep your child warm and comforted until medical help arrives.

Chemical Burns

If your child has been burnt by a chemical;

  • Seek medical help immediately
  • Remove any contaminated clothing
  • Brush off any dry chemicals
  • Wash the affected area under running water for 10 – 15 minutes


082 911
084 124
0860 444 044

Ann Richardson RN, RM
Private Nurse Practitioner
Dedicated to managing your well baby
Author and Parent Coach
011 465 3480/8


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