First Aid for Burns

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 29, 2011
Quick Bites

  • If the burn is third degree or extensive, immediate medical attention is needed.
  • Do not apply ice on the burned area, especially if it has opened the skin.
  • Avoid breaking blisters formed as a result of burning to prevent infections.
  • If possible, raise the burnt area of the body above the heart's level.

Burns can be caused by dry heat (such as fire), wet heat (such as steam or hot liquids), radiation, friction, heated objects, the sun, electricity, or chemicals. Burns can be superficial (first or second degree) or deep (third degree). Symptoms include reddening of the skin, swelling, blistering and pain. In third degree burns, the underlying tissue such as muscle fascia and tendons are also damaged. If the burns are extensive or third degree burns, immediate medical care is needed. If the burn area is more than 3 inches in diameter, or the burn is on face, hands, feet or genitals, you should take your child immediately to a doctor.

First aid for burns

First Aid for Burns

Minor burns (first-degree burns and second-degree burns) with an area less than 3 inches in diameter may be treated at home.

First aid for minor burn includes

  • Cool the burn: Soak the burn in cool water under a tap for about 10-15 minutes or until the pain decreases. If it is not possible to soak under a tap, immerse the burn in cold water or cool it with cold compresses. Do not apply ice on the burn.
  • Apply bandage: Protect the burned area, with a dry sterile gauze bandage. Cotton should not be used to cover the area as it can cause irritation. Apply the bandage loosely to avoid undue pressure on burned skin. Bandage on the burned area helps to reduce pain and protects blistered skin.
  • Analgesics: Give your child simple analgesics such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or mefenamic acid. Aspirin should not be given to children or teenagers.

Most minor burns heal without any further treatment. Change the dressing everyday and be watchful for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing.

Treatment for burns


  • Don't apply ice on the burned area.
  • Don't apply butter or ointments to the burn.
  • Don't break blisters as it increases the risk of infection.
  • Don’t treat extensive or third-degree burn at home.

For any major burns take your child to the emergency room immediately. Until you reach the hospital follow these steps:

  • Don't take off any clothing sticking to the burn.
  • Don't soak severe burned areas in water or apply any ointment. Cover the burned surface with a sterile bandage or clean cloth.
  • Check for breathing, coughing or movement. If the child is not breathing or other signs of circulation are absent start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • If possible, raise the burned body part or parts above the level of heart.


It is important to keep your cool and also ensure that your child feels better by trying to do all  you can in your capacity till you reach the hospital for further medical help.

Read more articles on Medical & Safety Tips.

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