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Burns and scalds

burn; scald; first aid; sunburn; steam; chemical; electrical; skin; flames; fire; blister; hot water. ;


candles You have probably heard about children getting badly burned sometimes, but I wonder if you have thought about how easily it could happen to you, and about the things you can do to make sure you don't get burned or scalded?
Burns and scalds are really painful. The skin goes red and the heat goes right inside the skin. Sometimes the skin is so badly damaged that it never gets really better. playing with fire

There may be scar - the skin could look all red and shiny. Patches of skin might have to be moved from somewhere else on the body when there is a really bad burn. [This is called skin grafting]. It might be necessary to have many operations.

Many children suffer these painful injuries.

In most cases these injuries would not have happened to these children if their homes were safer and children knew about keeping safe from burns and scalds, because most burns happen in and around their own homes.

Let's find out more about these painful injuries and learn how to keep yourself and the younger people in your family safe.

You can also check out our topic called Safety from fire.

What is a burn?

Burns are damage caused to the skin by:

  • cake candles Sun - sunburn.
  • Flames from a fire.
  • Something hot - like an iron or a heater.
  • Electricity - when you get an electric shock.
  • Chemicals - like dishwasher powder (which can cause a nasty burn if you get it in your mouth) or oven cleaner.
  • Playing with matches, a lighter. a candle or a lit cigarette.

What is a scald?

  • A scald is a burn caused by hot water, or steam, or other liquid - like coffee or tea being spilled from a mug, or hot water from a saucepan or the water from the hot water tap in the bath. It can also be caused by hot food. Did you know that lots of children have been scalded by spaghetti bolognaise? Really!

Fire burns

If your clothes or your friend's clothes catch fire:

Stop Stay still. Don't run.
Drop Fall to the ground.
Roll Flames need oxygen to keep them burning.  Rolling on the ground will stop them from getting any oxygen and help put the flames out.
Wrap something like a woollen blanket, floor rug or clothing around the person to smother the flames as they roll on the floor.
Cool cool the burnt skin with cold water (a shower is good if there is one), and keep it under the water until help arrives. This is really important!
Call for help.

Have a look at the topic First aid - burns.


Chemical burns

(Like the stuff that's used to clean ovens or drains.)

  1. Use a cloth or brush to brush off any chemicals on the skin.
    (Do not use your bare hands).
  2. Then wash the burned area with lots of cold water.
  3. GET HELP.

Electrical burns

  1. Do not touch the person until you know the power is off.
  2. Turn off the power using a wooden spoon or broom handle. If your house has a special safety switch then it will have already switched off the power, but still use a wooden spoon or something else wooden that can't carry electricity to turn the switch off.
  3. Wash the burned area with lots of  cold water.
  4. Get help.

Sun burn

  • If a large area of your skin is sun burnt, cool it down with a wet cool cloth.
  • Ask your parents or caregivers to get some special cream from the chemist to put on the burnt area.
  • If you have a lot of pain, or you feel sick because of the sunburn, you will need to go to the doctor for help.

Make sure that you don't get sun burnt again. Have a look at the topic Sunburn.

First aid for all burns

In the 'olden days' people would use butter, flour, cucumber, tomato or even toothpaste on a small burn. These would all exclude [keep out] air so the burnt skin did not feel so painful but they should not be used any more.

Using  cold water and then covering with a special burns dressing works much better, helps to make sure that the burnt area does not get infected (and is not as messy!) If you don't have a special burns dressing, cover the burnt area with clingwrap until the person can get the proper dressing. For the right way to deal with burns see our topic First aid - burns.


Some ways of preventing burns and scalds

The very best way to treat burns is to stop them happening.

Look at the pictures. What can you see that might cause someone to be burned?

hot drink in the wrong place 
scalded baby

birthday cake 

bubbling saucepan 


hot iron


How did you go?

Did you see all the dangers?

  1. Hot drink in an unsafe place.
  2. Cigarette could fall and start a fire.
  3. Hot water can burn.
  4. Candles can burn hair or they can fall over.
  5. Saucepan with handle sticking out could be tipped over and burn someone.
  6. Someone could trip over the cord and pull the iron over.
  7. Keep hot things (like barbeque kettles) where small children can't see them or climb up to them.

What rules might you and your family make to keep you and others safe from these dangers?

There are ideas in the topics Safety from fire and Safety in the kitchen for ideas about some rules.

Tell mum or dad that there is a special gadget to make sure the hot water in your house is not too hot -  so that you don't get burned when you turn on the tap.

This is what some children wrote about burns

"I got burnt when I touched the heater." Oliver

"I went to the beach last Sunday and burnt my back when I was rolling down the hot sand dunes." Simon

"I got burnt when I was making hot chocolate and I put my hand over the gas ring when I was stirring the milk." Toby

"When I was 5 I stood on a cigarette with my bare feet, and it was still lit." Lyn

"I got burnt when I was carrying a cup of hot coffee for dad. That happened 5 years ago and I still have the marks on my stomach." Peggy

Dr Kim says:

Dr Kim sun smart"Hot things are always dangerous. Never play with matches or close to heaters. Watch out for younger brothers and sisters who may not see danger as well as you can.

It is a good idea to get mum or dad to take you to a doctor when you have a burn or scald. Your doctor can work out what type of burn you have a what the best treatment is."




Some burns affect only the top layers of skin - they are called 'superficial burns' or 'first degree' burns. The skin will be red and painful and often there will be blisters, but if the burnt area does not get infected it will heal without any scar.

Some burns are 'second degree' burns - where some of the burnt area goes through all of the skin levels. These are also called 'partial thickness burns'. The burnt area will look red and swollen and hurt badly. You should see a doctor when there is a second degree burn.

Some burns affect all layers of the skin - called 'deep burns' or 'third degree burns'. Deep burns might need treatment such as a skin graft, to help them heal. There are likely to be scars after the burnt area heals.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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