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First Aid & Emergencies

Babysitting: Dealing With Burns

The most common burns that happen to kids are liquid burns, like scalding by hot water or other hot liquids.

Burns can range from mild to severe. Not all burns require emergency medical care — some minor burns can be treated at home.

What to Do

If a child has a burn that is large, a burn that’s caused by electricity (as from a live wire) or a chemical (like a household cleaner), or a burn from fire:

  • Call 911 immediately and then call the child’s parents.
  • Remove clothing from the burned area, but don’t remove clothing that’s stuck to the skin.
  • Place a cool, wet cloth on the burn to lessen pain.
  • Gently place a gauze or other clean bandage on the burn.
  • Do not put home remedies, such as butter, on the burn.
  • Do not use over-the-counter ointments on the burn.

To help prevent burns:

  • Keep kids away from hot objects like curling irons, radiators, and cups of hot liquid.
  • Don’t drink hot beverages like hot chocolate, coffee, or tea around babies or children.
  • Know how to find and use all household fire extinguishers.
  • Ask the parents if smoke detectors are working properly.
  • Prepare hot meals only when kids aren’t in the kitchen.
  • Check the bathtub water temperature before kids get in.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013