Burns and Scalds

If someone receives a burn or scald, your priority is to cool the burn as quickly as possible. Find out what to look for and what to do.

What are burns and scalds?

A burn can be caused by dry heat such as contact with fire, or a hot iron, or exposure to the sun. A scald can be caused by contact with wet heat, like steam or a hot cup of tea. The longer the burning goes on the more severe the injury.

Burns and scalds are treated in the same way as they are both damage to the skin caused by heat. They can be very painful but the amount of pain that you feel may not always relate to how serious the burn is. For example, a very serious burn may be relatively painless because there is damage to the nerve endings. So minor burns can be very painful whilst a serious burn not hurt at all.

Signs and Symptoms

Look for:

  • red skin and swelling
  • pain in the area of the burn
  • blistering may start to appear

correct first aid will:

  • Reduce the severity of a burn
  • Reduce pain from a burn
  • Reduce the amount of medical treatment needed for a burn
  • Reduce the amount of time it takes for a burn to heal
  • Cool the burn and halt the burning process to the skin
  • Burns and scalds first aid is simple!

What to do

  1. Stop the burning process as soon as possible. This may mean removing the person from the area, dousing flames with water, or smothering flames with a blanket. Don’t put yourself at risk of getting burnt as well.
  2. Cool with running water for at least 20 minutes and remove any clothing or jewellery if this can be done safely and gently.
  3. Call 999 or 111 (NHS direct) if the burn is serious and/ or larger than a 10 pence coin.
  4. Cover the burn with loose strips of cling film. Do not wrap tightly with cling film (because the burn may become swollen).



  • Cool a burn using ice
  • Burst blisters
  • Touch the burn
  • Apply creams, ointments or fats (butter etc), honey or toothpaste
  • Apply plasters
  • Remove clothing that is stuck to the burn