- A burn is a heat (thermal), chemical or electrical injury to the skin
First Aid Advice For Burns From Heat
- Immediately (don't take time to remove clothing) put the burned part in cold tap water or pour cold water over it for 10 minutes.
- For burns on the face, apply a cold wet washcloth. (Reason: lessen the depth of the burn and relieve pain).
First Aid Advice For Burns FromChemicals
- Remove any contaminated clothing.
- Flush the chemical off the skin with warm water for 10 minutes. For large areas, use a shower.
Severity of Burns:
- 1st degree - Reddened skin without blisters
- 2nd degree - Reddened skin with blisters (Heals from the bottom up, not from the edges. Takes 2 to 3 weeks.) Small closed blisters contain protective chemicals, serve as a dressing and reduce pain.
- 3rd degree - Deep burns with white or charred skin. Skin sensation is absent. Usually needs a skin graft to prevent bad scarring if it is larger than a quarter (1 inch) in size. (Heals from the edges)
When to Call Your Doctor for Burns
Call 911 If…
- If your child has a large 2nd or 3rd degree burn
- Difficulty breathing with burn to the face
- Difficult to awaken or acting confused
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- You think your child has a serious burn
- Blister is present (EXCEPTION: small closed blister less than ½ inch size)
- Eye or eyelid burn
- Burn completely circles an arm or leg
- Center of the burn is white or charred
- Electrical current burn
- Explosion or gun powder caused the burn
- Acid or alkali burn
- Chemical burn that causes a blister
- House fire burn
- Severe pain persists over 2 hours after pain medicine
- Burn looks infected
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Burn isn't healed after 10 days
Parent Care at Home If
- Minor heat or chemical burn and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Home Care Advice for 1st Degree Burns or Small Blisters
- Pain Medicine: For pain, apply cold compresses and give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen for a few days.
- Cleansing: Wash the area gently with warm water. Avoid soap unless the burn is dirty. (Reason: Soaps can slow healing).
- Closed Blisters: Don't open any small closed blisters - the outer skin protects the burn from infection.
- Antibiotic Ointment: For any broken blisters, apply an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin (no prescription needed). Then cover it with a Band-Aid. Change the dressing every other day. Use warm water and 1 or 2 gentle wipes with a wet washcloth to remove any surface debris.
- Expected Course: It will probably hurt for 2 days and peel like a sunburn in about a week. Fortunately, first- and second-degree burns don't leave scars.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Severe pain persists over 2 hours after pain medicine given
- Burn starts to look infected (pus, red streaks, increased tenderness)
- Burn isn't healed after 10 days
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
- Hansbrough JF and Hansbrough W. Pediatric burns. Pediatr Rev. 1999;20:117-124.
- Kai-Yang L, Zhao-Fan X, Luo-Man Z, et al. Epidemiology of pediatric burns requiring hospitalization in China: A literature review of retrospective studies. Pediatrics. 2008;122(1):132-142.
- Klein GL, Herndon DN. Burns. Pediatr Rev. 2004;25(12):411-416.
- Rodgers GL. Reducing the toll of childhood burns. Contemp Pediatr. 2000;17(4):152-173.
- Schiller W. Burn management in children. Pediatr Ann. 1996;25:431-438.
- Smith ML. Pediatric burns: Management of thermal, electrical and chemical burns and burn-like dermatologic conditions. Pediatr Ann. 2000;29:367-378.
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.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 8/1/2010
Last Revised: 9/13/2010 6:54:11 PM
Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.