Act fast: first aid for helping babies and children with burns

 Last updated 10 May 2023

Every year thousands of children with burns go to hospital. It’s an incredibly common injury – especially for under-fives. Here's how to help a a baby or child who a has a burn.

If you’ve ever spilt a hot drink over yourself, you’ll know it can make you jump or yelp. Chances are a small spill won’t leave you badly hurt.

But babies and children have much more sensitive skin than you or I. So if they tip a hot drink over, it can be much more serious.  That’s why it’s important to know how to treat a burn or scald.

Why is it a very common injury?

Every week in the UK, over 100 children are admitted to A&E with burns.

Parents and carers are very safety conscious and will do their best to keep dangerous items out of reach of children. So why are burn injuries so common in babies and toddlers?

Well, as babies reach nine months old they start to move about more independently. They begin to explore their surroundings, grabbing everything in sight to learn more about the world around them.

The main culprits

Here in Britain we love a good cup of tea. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that hot drinks are the biggest cause of burns in infants and toddlers.

As toddlers grow, they can reach further. The table, which was out of reach yesterday, is suddenly within grasp. All those lovely objects – including half-drunk cups of tea – are fair game for grabbing and swiping.

Many everyday household items are hot to touch and can burn children badly. Here are some of the main culprits:

Hot irons

Dangling cords and climbing frames – hot irons inevitably attract the attention of little explorers.

Hair straighteners

Everyone knows to keep hair straighteners away from children when you’re using them.

But what you might not realise is that even minutes after you’ve turned them off, they remain incredibly hot – over 80°C. They can cause serious burns to little hands keen to copy mummy’s styling routine.

Oven hobs

Older toddlers can be keen to help out and copy what they’ve seen in the kitchen. But when they try to stir pans and bake cakes they can get burnt.

Don't panic: you can help

If your baby or child does burn themselves, there are three simple things you can do to help them:

1. Cool the burn under cold running water for at least 20 minutes.

2. After the burn has been cooled, cover it with cling film or a clean plastic bag.

3. Call 999 if necessary and always seek medical advice if a baby or child has been burned.

Act fast

When a baby or child is burned, fast action by those nearby will have a massive impact.

Stay calm and get the burned area under cold running water as soon as possible. Keep it there for at least 20 minutes.

You’ll be reducing the amount of pain your child is in as well as minimising swelling and the risk of long-term scarring.

Keep your family safe