Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Burns

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Burns to the skin
  • A burn is a heat, chemical or electrical injury to the skin

If not, try one of these:

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

Care Advice for 1st Degree Burns or Small Blisters

  1. 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.
  2. Cold Pack for Pain:
    • For pain, put a cold wet washcloth on the burn.
    • Repeat as needed.
  3. 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.
  4. Clean the Burn:
    • Wash the burn gently with warm water.
    • Do not use soap unless the burn is dirty. Reason: Soaps can slow healing.
  5. Closed Blisters - Don't Open:
    • Don't open any small closed blisters.
    • The outer skin protects the burn from infection.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 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.

Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.