How To Treat A Burn With Your Child
Do’s and Don’ts of Burn Management
Unfortunately I see burns from hot liquids and flames too often in the emergency room. The patient is usually a curious toddler who wants to see what a caregiver is drinking, or wants to peer into the fireplace. No matter what the cause, burns hurt and have the potential to cause serious harm to your child.
I suggest that every burn be examined by a physician, as it may be more significant than you think. Many burns will appear benign, and may escalate in ‘burn degrees’, from first degree to a second degree burn over time. Before you get the burn checked out by a physician, here is what I recommend.
Immediate First Aid – How To Treat A Burn
• Remove your child from the burn environment. Remove any hot water-covered clothing or burning clothes.
• Run cool water over the burn for at least 15 minutes, the longer the better. Do not use ice. The goal is to lower the skin temperature to normal slowly. If your child won’t tolerate running water, immerse him or her in a bath of cool water.
• Assess for the areas of burning. Some parents will fail to notice more burns on other areas of the skin.
• Remove any clothing or jewelry from the site of the burn. Body parts may swell causing further injury. If clothing is stuck to the burned area, leave it for a physician to remove.
Next, Go See A Doctor
An emergency department or urgent care center is best.
TIP: Keep a list of urgent care locations accessible in case you ever need it.
- Cover the burned area in clean, cold water-soaked gauze or towels. You are trying to keep the burn moist, cool and clean.
- DO NOT PUT any medicine, cream, ointment or food product on the burn. This can actually cause further damage to the skin. Just water please.
IMPORTANT: Ignore those myths that tell you to use butter, vapor rub and other products – this can actually make the burn A LOT worse!
Home Treatment (Maybe)
Treating a burn at home may be possible if your doctor tells you the burn is minor, such a first degree burn (e.g. sunburn).
- Use cool clothes on the area
- Take frequent cold baths/showers
- Aloe vera may reduce pain or swelling
- Ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling. DO NOT USE ASA in kids (risk of Reye’s syndrome!)
- Your doctor may prescribe a topical steroid cream/ointment
- Do not peel skin
- Moisturizer may help prevent peeling and itching
The Best Strategy for Preventing Burns
The best strategy is to deny children access to liquids or surfaces that can burn. Keep kids away from flames and use barriers for the oven, stove and fireplace. Fire intrigues children and they may not know how dangerous contact can be. Keep hot liquids far away from a curious child. Hot fluids can still burn a child’s sensitive skin many minutes after boiling.