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Burn - First Degree
Burn - First Degree

First Aid - Burn - Chemical
First Aid - Burn - Chemical

First Aid - Burn - Thermal
First Aid - Burn - Thermal

  • A burn is a heat (thermal), chemical or electrical injury to the skin

Severity of Burns:

  • 1st degree - Reddened skin without blisters
  • 2nd degree - Reddened skin with blisters (Heals from the bottom up, not from the edges. Takes 2 to 3 weeks.) Small closed blisters contain protective chemicals, serve as a dressing and reduce pain.
  • 3rd degree - Deep burns with white or charred skin. Skin sensation is absent. Usually needs a skin graft to prevent bad scarring if it is larger than a quarter (1 inch) in size. (Heals from the edges)

If not, see these topics

First Aid:

First Aid Advice For Burns From Heat

  • Immediately (don't take time to remove clothing) put the burned part in cold tap water or pour cold water over it for 10 minutes.
  • For burns on the face, apply a cold wet washcloth. (Reason: lessen the depth of the burn and relieve pain).

First Aid Advice For Burns From Chemicals

  • Remove any contaminated clothing.
  • Flush the chemical off the skin with warm water for 10 minutes. For large areas, use a shower.
When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • For all thermal or chemical burns, see FIRST AID
  • Large 2nd or 3rd degree burn
  • Difficulty breathing with burn to the face
  • Difficult to awaken or acting confused
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • For all new thermal or chemical burns, see FIRST AID
  • You think your child has a serious burn
  • Blister is present (EXCEPTION: small closed blister less than ½ inch size)
  • Eye or eyelid burn
  • Burn completely circles an arm or leg
  • Center of the burn is white or charred
  • Electrical current burn
  • Explosion or gun powder caused the burn
  • Acid or alkali burn
  • Chemical burn that causes a blister
  • House fire burn
  • Severe pain persists over 2 hours after pain medicine
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
  • Burn looks infected
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Burn isn’t healed after 10 days
Parent Care at Home If
  • Minor heat or chemical burn and you don't think your child needs to be seen

  1. Pain Medicine: For pain, apply cold compresses and give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen for a few days.
  2. Cleansing: Wash the area gently with warm water. Avoid soap unless the burn is dirty. (Reason: Soaps can slow healing).
  3. Closed Blisters: Don't open any small closed blisters - the outer skin protects the burn from infection.
  4. Antibiotic Ointment:
    • For any broken blisters, apply an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin (no prescription needed).
    • Then cover it with a Band-Aid. Change the dressing every other day.
    • Use warm water and 1 or 2 gentle wipes with a wet washcloth to remove any surface debris.
  5. Expected Course: It will probably hurt for 2 days and peel like a sunburn in about a week. Fortunately, first- and second-degree burns don't leave scars.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe pain persists over 2 hours after pain medicine given
    • Burn starts to look infected (pus, red streaks, increased tenderness)
    • Burn isn't healed after 10 days
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 8/1/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.