Burns  

This Care Guide Covers:

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

If not, see these topics
View First Aid Advice
  • First Aid Advice For Burns From Heat
  • First Aid Advice For Burns From
  • Chemicals

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Burn - First Degree
Burn - First Degree

First Aid - Burn - Chemical
First Aid - Burn - Chemical

First Aid - Burn - Thermal
First Aid - Burn - Thermal

When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • For all new burns, see FIRST AID
  • 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 is having a life-threatening emergency
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • For all new burns, see FIRST AID
  • You think your child has a serious burn
  • 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 needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Blister is present (Exception: Small closed blister less than ½ inch or 12 mm size)
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Minor burn and last tetanus shot over 10 years ago
  • Burn not healed after 10 days
Parent Care at Home If
  • Minor heat or chemical burn
Causes & Health Information

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.
CARE ADVICE FOR 1ST DEGREE BURNS OR SMALL BLISTERS

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Minor burns can be treated at home.
    • This includes some small blisters.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Pain Medicine:
    • For pain, put a cold wet washcloth on the burn.
    • Also, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen for a few days. See Dose Table.
  3. Cleansing:
    • Wash the burn gently with warm water.
    • Do not use soap unless the burn is dirty. Reason: Soaps can slow healing.
  4. Closed Blisters:
    • Don't open any small closed blisters.
    • The outer skin protects the burn from infection.
  5. Antibiotic Ointment:
    • For any broken blisters, use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is 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 clean.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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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.


Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.