By Raising Children Network
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Burns and scalds: what to do

Scalds can be caused by hot drinks or hot water; make the area safe; remove clothing if it isn't stuck to the burn.
  • A burn is an injury to the skin from something hot. Scalds are burns from hot liquids. Scalds from hot drinks are the most common burn among children.

  • If your child gets a burn or scald, first make sure the area is safe and there’s no risk of further injury to your child or yourself. Take your child to a safe place if possible.
  • If the burn or scald is over your child’s clothing, remove the clothing immediately, if it isn’t stuck to the burn. Remove watches or jewellery. Leave any blisters alone.

Scalds and burns first aid

Treat the burn under running water; cool the burn, not the child; cover with a loose, non-stick dressing.
  • Treat the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes. Do this straight away. You can usually keep doing this for up to three hours after the burn.

  • Cool the burn, not the child. If the burn is large, stop cooling it after 20 minutes. This is because hypothermia can happen quickly in children.
  • Cover the burn with a loose, light, non-sticky dressing like cling film or a clean cloth. Raise burned limbs to reduce swelling and pain.


When to get medical attention for burns and scalds

Butter or flour can make the damage worse; call an ambulance for burns to face, airway, hands or genitals; go to hospital for large or severe burns.
  • Don’t apply ice, iced water, lotions, moisturisers, oil, ointments, butter or flour, creams or powders to the burn. This will make the damage worse.

  • Call an ambulance if the burn is to your child’s face, airway, hands or genitals, or if the burn is larger than the size of your child’s hand.
  • Go to a doctor or hospital if the burn is the size of a 20-cent piece or larger, or if it’s deep, raw, angry or blistered. Also go if the pain persists or is severe, or you’re not sure how bad the burn is.
  • Last updated or reviewed 21-09-2016
  • Acknowledgements

    Thanks to St John Ambulance Australia for its help in developing this content. This article was reviewed in collaboration with the Royal Children’s Hospital Safety Centre and Emergcare: Emergency Care Education Services.

    Please note: This information is not a substitute for first aid training. St John Ambulance recommends that everyone is trained in first aid. For more information, visit the St John Ambulance website.