First Aid for Burns: Do's and Don'ts

Burns are the most common type of injury and they can cause severe damage to your skin. However, burns are not always serious enough to require medical attention. If you suspect that your child has a burn, take them to the doctor right away if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • They're having trouble breathing or their skin feels tight
  • They seem unusually sleepy or restless (for example, they don't want to stay asleep)
  • Their hearing isn't as good as usual
  • Their lips, tongues, or faces feel numb
  • They have unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • Their eyes look funny (for example, it looks like one eye is smaller than the other)

Do cool the burn

If you have a burn, it's important to cool the skin as soon as possible. Cooling helps reduce pain and swelling and can prevent further damage to your skin.

Cold water is best for cooling burns because it's readily available, but if you don't have access to cold water or just want something faster than waiting for ice cubes in the freezer (which may take up to 30 minutes), consider using these alternative methods:

  • A wet towel or washcloth - Place an absorbent cloth over the affected area and apply firm pressure until dampened; repeat until cool enough for comfort (approximately 15 minutes). Afterward, dry off with another dry cloth before applying any creams or ointments.
  • An ice pack - Use an elastic bandage wrapped around some frozen vegetables (such as peas) or place them into a plastic baggie filled with water from your sink faucet. Baggy full of ice cubes

Don't put butter or grease on a burn

Don't put butter or grease on a burn. Butter and oil can trap heat, which can make the burn worse.

Don't use ice or ice water on a burn. The cold will numb the area, but it also causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing circulation that's needed for healing and getting rid of toxins from the damaged tissue. If you want to help cool down your skin after being burned, try applying vinegar or club soda instead--both are water-based liquids that won't cause further damage when applied directly to affected areas (and don't require any refrigeration).

Don't use ice or ice water on a burn

Ice and ice water can cause further damage to the skin. Ice causes frostbite, which is a type of burn. It also causes hypothermia, which is a serious concern for burns victims because their bodies already have difficulty regulating their temperature due to blood loss and shock. In addition to being dangerous, butter and grease are not sterile--they could introduce bacteria into an open wound on your hand or arm (or wherever else you might have suffered a burn). And if you cover up your wound with butter or grease after applying it, the heat from inside your body will be trapped inside by those greasy layers of butter or oil; this could result in further injury if left untreated!

Do run cool tap water over the burned area for 10 minutes

  • Run cool tap water over the burned area for 10 minutes.
  • Cooling the burn helps prevent further damage to the skin, which can lead to infection. Use lukewarm water, not cold or hot (ice is also not recommended). Do not apply butter or grease on a burn; instead, use a clean cloth to cover it with cool tap water. If you don't have painkillers, take ibuprofen in moderation--it may reduce inflammation but could also make things worse if taken in large doses. If blisters form after you've cooled your skin down with running water (or even if they don't), put on a sterile dressing before going to bed so they don't stick together while healing overnight!

Take painkillers if you have them

Painkillers are not a substitute for medical attention, but they can help manage the pain while you wait for professional treatment. If you don't have any painkillers and don't want to risk getting into an accident on your way to get one, try using ice instead: wrap the burned area in a cloth or towel soaked in cold water and keep it there until it starts feeling numb (about 10 minutes).

Don't burst blisters

Don't burst blisters, but cover them with sterile gauze or a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to prevent infection, if necessary. Take care not to reopen the wound while you're taking care of it.

Don't pop blisters or open wounds and don't put butter or grease on a burn. Simply run cool tap water over the burned area for 10 minutes and take painkillers if needed (though don't take aspirin!).

call 911 if your child has severe burns

If the burn is severe, call 911 immediately. If the victim has been burned on a large part of their body, if there are multiple burns to different parts of their body, or if they have chemical or electrical burns (including lightning), call 911 right away.

If your child's clothes stick to his/her skin when you try to remove them, soak them in cool water for about 10 minutes before attempting again gently loosen them from around injured areas without pulling too hard--this could cause further injury! Have him/her lie down with feet elevated above heart level if possible and cover with blankets until emergency personnel arrive at the scene

Burns can be serious and need medical attention fast

First aid for burns should be done as soon as possible, but if you are not sure whether or not the burn is serious, it's best to err on the side of caution. If your child has suffered a serious burn and you don't have immediate access to medical attention, cool down the area with cold water or apply ice packs until help arrives.

What To Do For Smaller Burns:

If your child has suffered a minor burn on their hand or arm (such as from touching hot metal), place them in lukewarm water--not hot--and let them soak for 5 minutes before gently drying off with clean cloths. Then apply aloe vera gel over top of any blisters that form; this will help reduce swelling and pain.


The best way to treat a burn is with cool water. This will help reduce pain and swelling and keep the area from getting infected with bacteria. If you have ice or ice packs, place them on top of the burn for 10 minutes before applying any other treatment. After cooling off the area, take painkillers if necessary (but don't take aspirin because it slows down blood clotting). You should also call 911 if your child has severe burns that cover a large part of the body, are deep or concentrated in an area such as an elbow or knee (and aren't caused by chemicals or electricity).


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