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Burns and scalds

Burns and scalds are damage to the skin caused by heat. A burn is usually caused by dry heat, like fire, a hot iron, or the sun. A scald is caused by wet heat, like steam or a hot cup of tea.

You need to be extra careful when treating burns. The longer the burning goes on, the more severe the injury will be, and the longer it may take to heal. So you need to cool the burn as soon as possible.

If someone has a severe burn or scald they are likely to suffer from shock, because of the fluid loss, so they will need urgent hospital treatment.

Poster download: How to treat a burn or scald

Watch our video - burns and scalds

What to look for

If you think someone has a burn or scald, there are five key things to look for:

  1. 1. Red skin
  2. 2. Swelling
  3. 3. Blisters may form on the skin later on
  4. 4. The skin may peel
  5. 5. The skin may be white or scorched

What you need to do

Stop the burning getting any worse, by moving the casualty away from the source of heat.

Start cooling the burn as quickly as possible. Run it under cool water for at least ten minutes or until the pain feels better. (Don’t use ice, creams or gels – they can damage tissues and increase risk of infection).

Assess how bad the burn is. It is serious if it is:

• larger than the size of the casualty's hand

• on the face, hands or feet, or

• a deep burn

If it is serious, call 999 or 112 for emergency medical help.

Remove any jewellery or clothing near the burn (unless it is stuck to it).

Cover the burned area with kitchen cling film or another clean, non-fluffy material, like a clean plastic bag. This will protect from infection.

If necessary, treat for shock (shock is a life-threatening condition, not to be confused with emotional shock).

If you are unsure if the burn is serious then tell the person to see a doctor.

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