What is a burn?

A burn (also called a scald) is an injury that happens when skin touches hot liquid, steam, certain chemicals or fire. Sometimes, burns are minor and can be treated at home. Other times, burns are serious and need to be cared for by a doctor.

Who has the highest risk of burns?

Everyone is at risk of getting burns, but young children, older adults and people with disabilities have the highest risk of burns. Young children have thinner skin than adults. This can cause young children to have deeper burns.

What are common sources of burns?

The most common sources of burns are:

  • Hot water, including hot bath water
  • Spills from hot drinks, food or steam
  • Hot pots, pans, stoves or ovens
  • Fire
  • Certain chemicals, like cleaning products and drain cleaners

How can I prevent my child from getting burned?

Here are some tips you can use to help prevent your child from getting burned:

  • Use a spill-proof travel mug when drinking hot drinks.
  • Turn pot and pan handles away from the edge of the stove when cooking. This can prevent you or your child from knocking the pot or pan off the stove.
  • Talk with your child about staying away from the stove or other areas where you prepare hot food or liquid.
  • Set your home’s hot water heater to 120°F (48.8°C) at most.
  • Test bath water with a cooking thermometer. Bath water should be about 100°F (37.7°C).
  • Watch your child carefully while cooking.
  • Don’t hold your child while you’re cooking or drinking hot drinks.
  • Watch your child carefully around tablecloths. Children can pull on tablecloths and spill hot food or liquid onto themselves or others.

My child has a burn. How can I care for it?

Here is how you can care for your child if he/she has a burn:

  1. Get your child away from what caused the burn.
  2. Cool the burn with lukewarm or cool tap water for 1-2 minutes.Do not use ice, ice water, butter, cream or oil to cool the burn. These can make burns worse.
  3. If the burn is smaller than the size of your child’s palm and is not deep, clean it with gentle soap and cool water. Do not pop any blisters that might form.
  4. If the burn is largerthan the child’s palm or you are not sure how deep it is, go to your nearest emergency room.

How can I tell the difference between a minor burn and a serious burn?

It can be difficult to figure out how deep a burn is right after it happens. Minor burns are red, painful and tend to be less deep. Serious burns can be white, numb (have no feeling) and go deeper into the skin.

Go to the emergency room if:

  • The burns is larger than the palm of your child’s hand
  • The burn looks like it goes deeper than the surface of your child’s skin
  • Your child has numbness (lost feeling) on the burn
Rev. 1/2016. This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.