What should I do if my child gets seriously burned?
First get your child away from the source of the burn and out of danger. If his clothing is on fire, smother the flames with a towel, blanket, or whatever else is available.
If your child has stopped breathing, administer CPR and have someone call 911 or the local emergency number. (If you’re alone, call 911 yourself after giving your child CPR for two minutes.)
If your child is breathing, call 911 or rush your child to the emergency room. Place a clean sterile cloth over the area if possible, but don’t try to treat a serious burn yourself. And be careful not to touch your child’s burns directly or breathe on them, as they’re very susceptible to infection.
Will my child need to be hospitalized?
If your child has suffered third-degree burns — or less severe burns that are extensive — he may need to be monitored in the hospital. Second-degree burns can sometimes be managed without a hospital stay. Your child will need frequent visits to the doctor for dressing changes and follow-up.
How can I tell how serious the burn is?
A first-degree burn is the mildest kind of burn, in which only the outer layer of skin has been damaged. A first-degree burn results in redness and, sometimes, slight swelling. It may look like a sunburn.
A second-degree burn is one in which the second layer of skin has been damaged, resulting in blistering and swelling. This type of burn is usually very painful.
A third-degree burn is the most serious. The skin, which may appear white or charred, is seriously injured — sometimes well below the surface. Third-degree burns are often not painful, but this is because the nerves have been damaged.
Should I take my child to the doctor?
Take your child to the doctor right away if the burn is anything but a minor first-degree burn; if the burn is extensive (larger than two inches in diameter) or on your child’s face, hands, or genitals; or if the injury is an electrical burn.
What should I do for a less serious burn?
Quickly cool the area by submerging it in cool water or applying cool compresses for 10 to 15 minutes. Dry the area with a clean towel and cover it with a sterile bandage.
If your child is uncomfortable, give him the appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease the pain. (Never give a child aspirin, which can cause a rare but dangerous condition called Reye’s syndrome.)
If the burn starts to blister, simply apply an antiseptic ointment and cover the area loosely with a clean nonstick bandage.
Never try to break a blister — blisters are an important part of the skin’s healing process. Don’t put butter, grease, lotion, or powder on the burn. These can increase the risk of infection. And don’t use ice, which can further damage the skin.
A first-degree burn may heal in just a few days, but a second-degree burn can take a couple of weeks. If your child shows signs of infection while the burn is healing, take him to the doctor. Signs of infection include increased pain, swelling, redness, drainage or pus, odor, swollen lymph nodes, fever, or red streaks spreading from the burn.
How should I treat a chemical burn?
Burns from lye, acids, or other harsh chemicals may look much like a sunburn. Remove your child’s clothing, cutting it away if necessary to avoid exposing other parts of his body to the chemical. If the chemical is dry (like a powder), find a safe way to brush it off your child’s skin.
Rinse the burned areas with cool running water for at least 15 minutes, and wash gently with soap and water. Don’t apply any lotions or ointments. Wrap the area with a dry, sterile dressing.
If your child’s chemical burn has penetrated his skin, causing a second-degree burn, take him to the doctor. Also take him to the doctor if the burned area is larger than two inches in diameter or it’s on his eyes, hands, feet, or genital area.
If your child swallowed or inhaled any of the chemical, immediately call Poison Control (800-222-1222 in the United States) for instructions. If the chemical splashed into his eyes, flush them for 20 minutes with water poured from a pitcher, then take him to the emergency room.
What can I do to prevent burns in the first place?
Children’s skin is thinner than adult skin, so it burns more easily. It’s important to take all the precautions you can to protect your child from burns.
Here are some commonsense steps you can take to reduce your child’s chance of suffering a burn:
Install and regularly check smoke alarms in your home.
Install a fire extinguisher where the risk of fire is greatest, such as in the kitchen or near the fireplace.
Use the back burners on the stove when possible. If you must use the front ones, turn the pot handles toward the back.
Don’t sit with your child on your lap while drinking a hot beverage.
Place hot food and drinks away from the edges of counters and tables.
To reduce the chance of scalding in the sink or bathtub, set your hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. And never leave your child unattended in the tub — for even an instant — to prevent both drowning and scalding if he turns on the water.
Keep irons, curling irons, lit candles, and other potential burn hazards out of reach.
Use a fireplace screen in front of your fireplace, and keep your child away from the area. Also keep him away from wood stoves, radiators, barbecue grills, and space heaters.
Keep matches out of your child’s reach. Make sure that he knows that matches are not to be played with, in case he finds them in your home or someone else’s.
If your child uses the toaster, teach him to never put a metal object (like a fork or knife) into the toaster to retrieve his toast, but to ask an adult for help.
Check your child’s car seat before he climbs into it. The seat and buckles can get hot enough to cause second-degree burns. (You might want to throw a towel over the car seat if the car will be sitting in the sun.) Also check metal playground equipment (a steel slide or swing, for example) before your child plays on it.