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Baby and Child First Aid

Questions and answers about first aid for children:burns

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

Q

If clothes are stuck to the burn, should I try to remove the item?

Answer
Answer

No, don’t try to remove anything that is stuck to the burn. This could cause more damage. If the clothing is near to, but not stuck to, the burn you can remove it.

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Q

Why is cooling the burn so important?

Answer
Answer

Cooling the burn is important because it helps reduce any pain the baby or child will feel and lowers the risk of long-term scarring.

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Q

Should I cool the burn for ten minutes and then go to hospital, or should I go straight to hospital?

Answer
Answer

Cool the burn under cold running water immediately and for at least ten minutes. If necessary, call 999 while you are cooling the burn and continue to do so until the ambulance arrives.

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Q

Can I use a shower or cold bath to cool my baby or child’s burn?

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Answer

A shower is a good way of flooding the burn with cold water to help the cooling. Focus the water on the site of the burn rather than the whole limb or body. The water should be cold, with low pressure. Putting the whole body under a cold shower or in a cold bath could induce hypothermia and is not advised.

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Q

If the burn is still painful after I have cooled it for ten minutes and covered it with cling film, what should I do?

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Answer

The chances are the burn will still be painful. Don’t forget to give some pain-killers (paracetamol-based syrup), and reassure the baby or child to help them remain calm. Always seek medical advice for a baby or child who has been burned.

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Q

Why do I always have to seek medical advice if a baby or child has been burned?

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Answer

Burns can be very dangerous, depending on the age of the child and the size, depth and location of the injury. Even small burns can be potentially life-threatening to a baby or child, so always call 999, NHS 111 or go to hospital.

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Q

Should I use ice to cool the burn?

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Answer

No, ice could damage the skin.

Use cold water to cool the burn. If you don’t have immediate access to cold running water then other cold liquids such as milk, soft drinks and beer can be used to cool burns as quickly as possible.

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Q

Should I put a plaster over a burn to make sure it doesn’t get infected?

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Answer

No. Don’t use any adhesive bandages as they’ll stick to the skin and may cause further damage. After cooling, cover the burn with cling film or a clean plastic bag – this will help prevent infection and won’t stick to the burn.

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Q

Should I put butter, a cream or toothpaste on a burn?

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Answer

No, these will not help to cool the area. Butter and cream are oils which retain heat, the opposite of what you’re trying to do. Toothpaste often contains menthol, which may give a superficial feeling of cooling, but is not effective at treating the whole burn. If you put anything on top of a burn and it later needs to be removed in hospital, it may cause further pain, distress and damage.

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