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Burns and scalds

Knowing what to do

A burn is damage to the skin, which is caused by direct contact with something hot. Burns can also be caused by certain chemicals, electricity and friction. A scald is a burn that is caused by a hot liquid or steam. Scalds are treated in the same way as burns.

Treat any burn or scald straight after the accident but always take your child to hospital for anything more than a very small burn or scald. A baby’s skin is very delicate and can be scarred without the right treatment.

Cool the burnt area by placing under cool running water for at least twenty minutes. When the burn has cooled, cover it with a sterile dressing, food quality cling film or a plastic bag. Don’t wrap it too tightly. Give paracetamol or ibuprofen. Then take your child to hospital.

Remember to keep hot drinks out of children’s reach.


Hold the affected area under cold water for at least 20 minutes. Cover the burn with cling film if you have some, then wrap in a cloth soaked in cool water.


Apply fatty substances like butter or ointment as this won't do any good and will only waste time for hospital staff who'll have to clean the area before it can be treated.


Treat the burn or scald straight after the accident by running under cold water for 20 minutes.


Do not use creams, lotions or ointments on the burn or scald.


For small burns take your child to the Practice Nurse or Urgent Care Centre. For large or facial burns you should go to A&E.

If you are still worried, contact your GP out-of-hours service. If you cannot get help straight away go to the Accident and Emergency Department.