How do you know when your child’s burn needs medical treatment?

Posted on May 5, 2014

Burns and scalds are scary occurrences that happen all too often. Most burn injuries, 80 percent in fact, occur right at home. Among children under the age of four who were treated at the hospital for burns, 65 percent received treatment for scald-related burns. A common cause for these burns is hot food or water spilled in the kitchen.

During warmer weather, we spend more time outside, enjoying activities like barbecues and camping. But these activities also present opportunities for burns, such as when a child’s skin or clothing comes in contact with an open flame by standing near a charcoal grill or fire pit, for instance.

Other common causes of burns include:

·  Scalds from a hot liquid – the thicker the liquid and the longer the contact with skin the greater the damage.
·  Steam burns, such as those that occur in industrial accidents or from automobile radiator accidents; steam burns often cause injury to the airways of the lungs as well.
·  Contact with a hot object, such as a cigarette, iron, curling iron, etc.
·  Burns from inhalation of hot smoke from flames
·  Electrical burns, including lightning
·  Flash burns from rapid ignition of a flammable gas or liquid
·  Tar burns
·  Chemical burns from alkaline or acidic substances

So how do you know when a burn can be treated at home, and when you should bring your child to your pediatrician or an emergency room? While we recommend that you call Shriners Hospitals for Children-Boston or your pediatrician for any size burn on a child, the following information indicates a need for medical attention:

1.  Partial-thickness burns, which go deeper than the top layer of skin
2.  Burns greater than 10% total body surface area (TBSA)
3.  Burns that involve the face, hands, feet, on or near genital areas, or major joints
4.  Third-degree burns in any age group
5.  Electrical burns, including lightning injury
6.  Chemical burns
7.  Inhalation injury
8.  Burn injury in patients with preexisting medical disorders that may complicate or prolong recovery.

Follow these tips from Shriners-Boston for the initial treatment of a child’s burn.

For minor burns (outer layers of skin affected, small areas)

·   Remove clothing
·   Cool the burn with cool water. Do not use ice.
·   Do not break blisters. Any burn with blistering should be assessed by a physician.
·   Do not apply ointments or creams to severe burns that require a doctor’s attention.
·   Cover the burn with a cool, moist, sterile bandage or clean cloth.

For serious burns  (deep burns, burns larger than 3 inches in diameter (or less for a small child or infant) or on face, hands, feet, groin, buttocks or joints)

·    For flame burns, smother the flames. Stop, drop and roll.
·    Call 911 to get medical help IMMEDIATELY.
·    Carefully remove the clothing so you can help stop the burning process, assess the situation and immerse in cool water.
·    Do not immerse very large or severe burns in cold water.
·    Do not apply ointments or creams.
·    Elevate burned body parts above heart if possible.
·    Cover the burn with a cool, moist, sterile bandage or clean cloth.


To learn more about burn injury treatment, or other types of treatment at Shriners-Boston, we encourage you to reach out by calling us at 617-722-3000.

If you’d like to support the children who receive treatment at Shriners-Boston, please consider making a donation to the hospital.

Posted in: Articles  |  Tagged: Burns, scalds, child burns, Burn Treatment  |  Bookmark the Permalink

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