A burn is caused by dry heat – by an iron, hair straighteners, or even a hot radiator. A scald is caused by something wet, such as a hot bath or cup of tea. Both should be treated in the same way.
Burns and scalds can be very painful but remember, the amount of pain your child feels isn't always related to how serious the burn is. A very serious burn may cause:
- Red peeling skin
- White charred skin
How To Treat a Burn or Scald
- First, move your child away from the heat source to stop the burning.
- Remove any clothing or jewellery that are near the burn, including babies' nappies. Don't move anything that's stuck to the skin.
- Cool the burn with cool or lukewarm running water for at least 10 minutes. Don't use ice, iced water, or any creams or greasy substances such as butter. Don't put your child in a cold bath.
- Cover the burn with a layer of cling film. A clean plastic bag could also be used for burns on the hand.
- Call (GP, 111, or 999) to seek medical advice if your child is under 5, or if you are worried.
- Make sure your child stays warm. You could use a blanket but take care not to rub it against the burnt area.
- Use paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat any pain.
- If the face or eyes are burnt, sit your child up as much as possible. This helps to reduce swelling.
Accidents can happen very easily, but by following these top tips you can reduce the risk of burns and scalds.
In the Kitchen
- Keep saucepans at the back of the cooker where possible. Turn the handles out of reach.
- Don’t warm your baby's bottle in the microwave.
- After warming your baby's milk, shake it and check the temperature with a few drops on your wrist - it should feel lukewarm, not hot.
- Stay with children and keep a close eye on them.
- Don't use a tablecloth if there is a danger your child might pull it and cause hot objects to fall on them.
Try the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Virtual Safety Kitchen
In the Bathroom
- When running the bath, put the cold water in first and then top it up with hot water. Test the temperature using your elbow before you put your baby or toddler in.
- Never leave your child alone in the bath.
Around the House
- Keep matches, lighters and cigarettes out of reach.
- Put fireguards in front of very hot radiators, open fires, or wood burners.
- Radiator pipes can get very hot - if there is a danger of your child rolling onto them, cover the pipes or screen them off.
- Keep hot appliances, such as hair straighteners or an iron, out of reach while they cool down.
Hair straightener safety
- Hot water bottles can cause serious burns. Allow the boiled water to cool for a few minutes before filling your bottle. Don't overfill it - about two-thirds full is enough. Carefully let the air out of the bottle before putting the stopper in and ensure the stopper is screwed on tightly.
Hot Water Bottle Safety
Hot Drink Safety
Spilling hot drinks such as tea, coffee and soup is a common cause of scalds in young children. The following safety advice can help to prevent accidents.
- Keep hot drinks out of reach - they can still burn 15 minutes after being made.
- Don't try to hold a hot drink at the same time as holding your baby, always put your drink down safely first.
- If your child is on the floor, be careful not to trip over them while you are holding a hot drink. Also be aware of other trip hazards, such as toys, while carrying a hot drink.
- If you have guests in the house, stay aware of potential hazards, especially hot drink spillages.
Burns & Scalds Outdoors
It is important to remember that burns and scalds can also happen outside the house.
- Barbecues and fires should always be supervised to reduce the risk of accidents. Barbecues remain hot for a long time after cooking. Disposable barbecues should be kept out of reach of children after cooking has finished, or sprayed with water to reduce the temperature.
- Children should not be allowed to play near a firepit or chimenea. Some firepits have a protective cover, but remember these can also become very hot.
Barbecue and garden safety
- If you are having a firework display or bonfire at home, follow the safety advice to reduce the risk of accidents.
Tips for firework safety
- It is also important to remember sun safety advice when your children are outdoors, to reduce the risk of sunburn.
Read more about staying safe in the sun