First-aid for children’s burns with CPR Kids' Sarah Hunstead

Kinderling News & Features

As we try to warm our cold bones in the winter months, there’s a higher risk of burns for all of us. Heaters, hot tea and bowls of soup are all commonplace. And as much as you try to keep them out of reach, kids are curious creatures and often find them anyway! 

Sarah Hunstead of CPR Kids is a paediatric nurse that has seen this time and time again. 

“The most common burns in children tend to be the hot water scalds and this is something we definitely see an increase in winter time,” she says. 

Burns can be a lot more serious for children too, because their tolerance is much lower than adults. “In comparison to children, we are leathery old crocodiles,” Sarah says. “So we have got tougher skin, and in a hot cup of tea, you can stick your finger in and go ‘ouch!’, but that will blister a child. Not only do they burn at lower temperatures, but they’ll also burn in a much shorter amount of time as well.”

Listen to Sarah on Kinderling Conversation:

So what do you do if disaster strikes? Sarah explains step-by-step what sort of first aid is necessary.

Step One:

If bub has burnt themselves, it's vital to remove the heat source and affected clothes as soon as possible. "The only time you don’t do that is if it’s stuck to the skin," advises Sarah.

Sarah says that most importantly, take off nappies. This is because they're designed to retain heat, and if hot liquid has run down inside, a child can end up with awful genital burns.

Acting fast in these first few moments can save the skin from multiple operations later, and skin grafts for particularly bad burns. 

Step Two:

Immediately run cool running water over the skin for a minimum of twenty minutes. If clothing is stuck to the skin, run cool water over that too. Don't use ice or iced water.

If the burns cover a large part of their body, get into a cold shower with the child, exposing burnt skin to the water, and keep the rest of their body warm with your own body. 

“We need to take the heat out of the burn - to stop that cooking process,” Sarah explains. Keep it running under cool water until it stops radiating heat. 

Asking a toddler to sit there for twenty minutes is really really hard, and slightly traumatic. However, this is non-negotiable so that the skin properly heals.

Watch more advice from Sarah:

"A good thing to have in your first aid kit is a spray bottle," Sarah says. For any head burns, it might be stressful for the child to have water constantly running down their face, so this consistent spray can be helpful until medical help arrives.

Step Three:

Sarah recommends seeking medical attention for all kids’ burns, even if they're small and particularly if they don’t stop emitting warmth. We don't want them to scar.

“In children, all burns should really be seen by the GP or the hospital. If in doubt, call the ambulance and get medical help,” she says. "If it's their face or head or neck, we need an ambulance to come.

Do not put on any bandages, cream or lotions until you've consulted with your doctor.

"If you put a cream or lotion on, the doctor can’t tell how severe the burn is, and will need to remove the cream, which would be very painful! Apply loose cling wrap over the burn on the way to seek medical help," Sarah suggests.

Step Four:

One final tip to avoid hot water scalds? Drop the degrees at the source. "Lowering your hot water system temperature is really important," Sarah says. If possible, bring it down to around 50 degrees.