Treating Burns and Scalds

Burns are one of the most common household accidents, but their treatment is often misunderstood. The Parent Company, one of the UK’s leading providers of baby and child First Aid training, explain what to do if your child is burnt, and answer some common questions about burn treatment.

If possible, remove clothing from the burnt area, but don’t remove if they are already stuck to the skin. 

Cool down the area by running it under cool water for 10-20 minutes or until the pain eases. This will prevent the burn from getting worse. 

Give some pain relief - it is easy to forget, but will help to calm your child. 

Lightly cover the burned area with cling film, a clean plastic bag or cold, wet cloth (but not wrapping). This will help to protect the sore skin from further irritation and infection. 

If the burn is larger than palm size, is on the face or joints, or remains red, take your child to a doctor or Emergency Department. 

Do NOT put any ointments, creams, or anything else on the burn and be careful of using ice packs because these can also burn.

Common questions on burn treatment 

How do I treat scalds? A scald is a burn caused by hot fluids, and the treatment is the same as for a regular burn.

How do I treat my child’s burn after an electrical shock? Burns are the most common outcome of an electric shock and should be treated in the same way as other burns. However, make sure it is SAFE TO APPROACH. Use a non conducting implement made of wood (like a chair leg) or rubber to ground the shock and ensure the power is switched off. Although your child may only have a small entry wound, take them to an Emergency Department to check for any further injuries.

How do I treat chemical burns? It is very important to get rid of the chemical by washing it away but be careful that you are wearing protection. Rinse in cold water for 20 minutes and then cover with a clean dry dressing - clean tea towels are good as they are usually boil washed and ironed.

How do I treat sunburn? Keep your child cool (but not cold!) with light, cool clothing, give plenty of cool fluids and apply cooling creams like calamine or after-sun lotions. Check out our simple sunburn soothers.

Did you know?

Hot drinks are the number one cause of scald injuries in young children. Each year in the UK, over 6,500 children under five visit hospital accident and emergency departments as a result of scalds from kettles and hot drinks. About one in eight of these children are admitted to hospital for five days or more.

Every day at least one child is admitted to hospital with scalds caused by bath water? At 44ºC it takes 6 hours for water to burn, at 54ºC it takes 30 seconds to burn and at 70ºC it takes 1 second to burn. Simply reducing the temperature of the hot water in your home will make a scald less harmful. 

Almost two-thirds of all accidental house fires are caused by cooking in the kitchen - more than 30,000 each year. Smoke alarms are essential and should be placed in all the suitable landings and 'at-risk' rooms within the house. Many families have a small fire extinguisher or fire blanket that they keep available in rooms such as the kitchen.

Related links

  • Sun Safety for Children: It’s vital that children’s skin is protected from the sun; many parents don’t make the link between childhood tans and skin cancer in later life. Nina Goad of the British Skin Foundation charity told the Supernanny Team how children are best protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Safety for Children: The Suzy Lamplugh Trust campaigns to increase public safety, and in the following article, the Trust outlines basic safety rules you should teach your children.

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