Burns in Children - Prevention and Treatment
Health Education

Treating Burns in Children

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 2 Jan 2014 - 15:39.

While anybody can be a victim to burns, children are more frequently susceptible to it because of their innocent, curious and exploratory nature. However, if the parents and other adults in the family know the ropes of handling burns, treatment becomes simpler.

Most common of the burns may be due to scalding (burns from hot liquids), but whatever type of burn it maybe, it is important to understand that burns are classified into three types:

  • First-degree burns (mild) affect only the outer layer of skin. In this case, the child’s skin can turn red and swollen and can be painful.
  • Second-degree burns (moderate) involves the first and second layers of skin, where the child’s skin can be blistery, swollen and can be severely painful.
  • Third-degree burns (severe) involve all layers of the skin including the underlying tissue. This would appear charred, black, white, leathery, or waxy, but the wound will not be painful as the nerves on the skin get damaged.

Burns can be various types caused by fire, chemicals or acid, electric shock, hot loquids or sun burn. They all present the same symtoms of painful burning sensation and can be treated depending on the severity of the burns. 


Children are more vulnerable to burns, however, burns as an accident can happen to anyone at any age. Children with their curious nature tend to explore things around them through touch oblivious of the danger involved in burns. However, burns are most common among children and should be carefully addressed.

Treating burns from fire:

  • Without panicking, the first step is to get your child out of danger and away from the source of the burn. If the clothing of the child is on fire, smother the child with a towel, blanket or whatever covering is readily available, including your own clothing.
  • Gently remove any clothing covering the burnt skin taking care to notice that it is not stuck to the skin.  Never remove the clothing from the stuck portion as it might cause further injury. The best thing to do in such cases is to trim the cloth around the burnt area to avoid peeling it.   
  • The next important step is to notice if the child is breathing properly or struggling to breathe or has stopped breathing. Every mother should learn the art of mouth-to-mouth respiration and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) which she will find useful in such calamitous situations before bringing in emergency medical aid.
  • Another important task is to cool the burnt area as far as possible. Whenever there is a burn whether small or big there is always stored heat in the skin which causes further damage to the skin and increases the pain. Therefore, it is important to submerge the area in cool water for over 20 minutes. Never use ice cool water. If the burn happens to be on the face, water soaked towel should be dabbed on the face as gently as possible without rubbing the skin. This will cool down the skin.
  • If the burnt area is larger than the area of the child’s chest wall, call for emergency service or take the child to the nearest emergency care center. In such cases, the burnt area should be covered with a clean dry cloth. However, once the burnt area is cooled down it should not be touched or applied with ice, ointments, bandages or cotton balls, as it further injures the skin. One should be cautious not to breathe out or cough over the burnt areas as it is vulnerable to infection.
  • Treating chemical burns: Ensure to wash the burnt area with cool water thoroughly for about 15-20 minutes to prevent the child from further exposing to other parts of the body with chemicals.  If the chemical is a dry powder, brush it off the skin before flushing the area with water so that it doesn’t react with water and cause new burns. Acids and other harsh chemicals cause burns which look like sunburn. However they are very painful because of the irritation they cause to the underlying areas. In such cases you should remove the child’s clothing or cut it if it cannot be removed.
  • Treating the child from electrical burns: First try to disconnect the power source, if that can’t be done, move away the child from the power source by using a non-metallic object, such as a wooden spoon, a rope, or a large book, pillow, do not use your bare hands as  you risk getting a shock, too.


Dos and don’ts



  • A good rule is to give the child frequent sips of water to drink to help prevent dehydration.
  • Burns can affect any area. If your child had burns on the face, hands, or genitals or if it has affected a large portion of the body, call the emergency immediately.
  • If the child has only blisters, after it’s cooled, a mild antiseptic ointment may be applied and covered with a nonstick bandage.


  • Never try to break a blister; it's an important part of the skin's healing process.
  • Don’t put butter, grease, lotion or powder (Ignorant mothers have a tendency to put turmeric powder on the burned areas) which can hold the heat and prevent natural healing process. You can give the child Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen drops to give relief from pain. Mild burns usually heal in a few days without the fear for scar formation.

Tips to prevent burns

  • If possible install fire extinguishers where the risk exists.
  • When using four-burner cooking range, always use the back ones to prevent the child from reaching it.
  • Never carry a child with one hand when holding hot beverages with the other hand.
  • Never keep hot food or beverages at the edge of the table to prevent the child from pulling the cloth and spill on his/her body.
  • While storing hot water in buckets in the bath room, take care to keep infants away to prevent accidental access to the hot water in the bath rooms.

Remember children are always inquisitive to explore, so always be watchful and careful.


*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.