Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

First aid for burns and scalds


WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Burns and scalds are skin damage from heat or hot liquids. Giving the right type of first aid quickly and calling 999 where necessary is important to limit the damage to skin, such as charring or blistering.

Basic first aid tips

No first aid kit is needed to treat burns and scalds, just common sense and the first aid knowledge to be able to use household items.

First, stop further burning or scalding. Take the injured person away from the source of heat, or safely put out flames without getting injured yourself.

Take off clothing or jewellery from near the area of burning or scalding, but not if the items are stuck to the skin, to prevent further skin damage.

As soon as possible after the burn or scald, ideally within 20 minutes, cool the area of the burn using cool or lukewarm water for 10 minutes to half an hour. Do not use ice, ice water, creams, greases or butter, which can cause further damage. Butter and oils actually retain heat rather than helping to remove it. The British Red Cross says that if cool water is not available, cool juice, beer or milk may be used.

Cover the area of the burn with a layer of cling film or use a clean, clear plastic bag for hand burns.

Although the burn needs to be cooled, the injured person needs to be kept warm using blankets or extra clothing, but avoiding the area of the burn or scald.

Burns can be painful and the severity is assessed as being first second and third degree.

Treat the pain from a burn with paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Burns and scalds in children

A small child's skin scalds much more easily than an adult's, so always act fast, give appropriate first aid and call 999 or go straight to the nearest hospital A&E department.

Children under 16 should never be given aspirin.

To learn more about giving first aid, consider taking a course run by organisations like the British Red Cross or St John Ambulance.

Reviewed on November 07, 2014

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

agave syrup
These may not be so healthy
exercise illustration
The 7-minute workout
female patient consulting with female GP
How to boost your chances
bowl of soup
Small changes that lead to weight loss
heart rate graphic
What is it, and how is it treated?
smiling woman
Much more than weight loss
crossword puzzle
Tips for the first hard days
sperm and egg
Facts to help you get pregnant
smiling_handsome_man
Put your best face forward
sick child
Treating your child's cold & fever
couple makigh salad
How it can help with weight loss
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?