Should Your Child See a Doctor?
Is this your child's symptom?
- Burns to the skin
- A burn is a heat, chemical or electrical injury to the skin
Causes of Burns
- Hot Liquids. Hot liquids such as coffee are the most common cause of burns. They cause a scald.
- Hot Surfaces. Examples are ovens, stoves, space heaters and curling irons.
- Chemical Burns Serious. Examples are acids or lye splashed on the skin. They continue to damage the skin until they are removed.
- Electrical Burns Serious. They can be much deeper than they first appear.
Degrees of Burns
- 1st degree. Red skin without blisters.
- 2nd degree. Red skin with blisters. Heals from the bottom up, not from the edges. Takes 2 to 3 weeks. Small closed blisters decrease pain and act as a natural bandage.
- 3rd degree. Deep burns with white or charred skin. Skin feeling is lost. Heals in from the edges. Grafts are often needed if it is larger than a quarter in size. Burns over 1 inch or 2.5 cm. Skin grafts help limit scarring.
When to Call for Burn
Call 911 Now
- 2nd or 3rd degree burn covers a large area
- Trouble breathing with burn to the face
- Trouble breathing after being near fire and smoke
- Hard to wake up
- Acts or talks confused
- You think your child has a life-threatening emergency
Call Doctor Now or Go to ER
- Eye or eyelid burn
- Burn goes all the way around an arm or leg
- Center of the burn is white or charred
- Electrical burn
- Explosion or gun powder caused the burn
- Chemical burn such as acid
- Coughing after being near fire and smoke
- House fire burn
- Severe pain and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
- Burn looks infected
- You think your child has a serious burn
- You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent
Call Doctor Within 24 Hours
- Blister is present Exception: Small closed blister less than ½ inch or 12 mm size
- You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent
Call Doctor During Office Hours
- Minor burn and last tetanus shot over 10 years ago
- Burn not healed after 10 days
- You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home
- Minor heat or chemical burn
- Blisters less than ½ inch (12 mm) size
Seattle Children’s Urgent Care Locations
If your child’s illness or injury is life-threating, call 911.
Care Advice for 1st Degree Burns or Small Blisters
- What You Should Know About Burns :
- Minor burns can be treated at home.
- This includes some small blisters.
- Here is some care advice that should help.
- Cold Pack for Pain:
- For pain, put a cold wet washcloth on the burn.
- Repeat as needed.
- Pain Medicine:
- To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product such as Tylenol.
- Another choice is an ibuprofen product such as Advil.
- Use as needed.
- Clean the Burn:
- Wash the burn gently with warm water.
- Do not use soap unless the burn is dirty. Reason: Soaps can slow healing.
- Closed Blisters - Don't Open:
- Don't open any small closed blisters.
- The outer skin protects the burn from infection.
- Antibiotic Ointment for Open Blisters:
- For any broken blisters, use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed.
- Then cover it with a bandage such as Band-Aid. Change the dressing every other day.
- Each time, clean the area. Use warm water and 1 or 2 gentle wipes with a wet washcloth.
- What to Expect:
- Most often, burns hurt for about 2 days.
- It will peel like a sunburn in about a week.
- First- and second-degree burns don't leave scars.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Severe pain lasts over 2 hours after taking pain medicine
- Burn starts to look infected spreading redness, pus
- Burn not healed after 10 days
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Last Reviewed: 10/20/2014
Last Revised: 10/20/2014
Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.