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  • Burns

    Definition

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

    First Aid Advice For Burns From Heat

    • Put the burned part in cold tap water right away. You can also pour cold water over it. Do this for 10 minutes. Don’t take time to remove clothing.
    • For burns on the face, put a cold wet washcloth on the burn.
    • Cold water lessens the depth of the burn and eases the pain.

    First Aid Advice For Burns From Chemicals

    • Remove any contaminated clothing.
    • Then wash the chemical off the skin with warm water for 10 minutes. For large burns, use a shower.

    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.

    When to Call Us for Burns

    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 has a life-threatening emergency

    Call Us 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 Us 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 Us 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

    Care Advice for Burns

    What you should know:

    • Minor burns can be treated at home.
    • This includes some small blisters.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.

    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.

    Cleansing:

    • Wash the burn gently with warm water.
    • Do not use soap unless the burn is dirty. Reason: Soaps can slow healing.

    Closed Blisters:

    • Don’t open any small closed blisters.
    • The outer skin protects the burn from infection.

    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.

    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.

    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

    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.
    Copyright 1994-2013 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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