National Burns Awareness Day

7,661 children were burned or scalded in 2021 alone in England and Wales. This figure doesn’t include the thousands seen and discharged in A&E. These are the children who were so badly injured they had to be admitted to a Specialist Burns Unit.

A burn injury is for life. The scars are physical as well as psychological, and can present life-long challenges for the individual and their families. What many people don’t know is that children and the elderly are the most vulnerable, and the majority of injuries occur as a result of an accident that could so easily have been prevented.
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.
National Burn Awareness Day started in 2013 to help raise awareness on how to prevent burns and scalds and reduce the number of serious injuries. It also aims to give vital messages surrounding medical advice on how to treat a burn or scald.
For young people the majority of accidents happen in the home either in the kitchen when preparing food or using appliances such as hair straighteners or irons. These take longer than you think to cool down, 508+ children (0–14 yrs) in 2021 were treated for burns from them. Ensure they are safely out of reach even after use.
In addition, outside of the home, burns from fireworks being misused and clothing catching alight can cause serious life-threatening injuries. The best way to enjoy fireworks is at an organised display. The fireworks will be bigger, you are not responsible for safety, and you will be part of the crowd. Bonfires are a fun tradition, but they do have their dangers. Wrap up warm and don’t throw anything dangerous onto the fire. Before you think about attending any gathering with fireworks, remember that they can cause life-changing burn injuries. Don’t take the risk. The fire service advice is a simple Stop, Drop, Roll. This is only used when clothing catches fire.
Being burned or scalded can mean years of painful treatment and, in the worst cases, hundreds of operations to release the scar tissue.
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
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
For more information: