Burns and scalds: How to provide proper care

Fact Checked

Burns involve damage to the skin brought about by heat. Burns are usually caused by dry heat such as fire or an iron. A scald is brought about by something wet such as steam or hot water.


It is important to note that burns can be quite painful and cause the following:

  • Peeling or reddened skin
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • White or charred skin

The degree of pain that the individual feels is not always linked to the seriousness of the burn. Even a burn that appears serious might be painless.

Management of burns and scalds

Pain medications can be given to reduce the pain or discomfort.
  • Move the individual away from the source of the heat immediately to put an end to the burning process.
  • Cool the site using lukewarm or cool running water for up to 20 minutes.
  • Remove any jewelry or clothing near the site of the burn but do not remove anything that has adhered to the skin.
  • Keep the individual warm with a blanket but be careful not to rub it against the area.
  • Make sure that the burn is covered with a layer of cling film. If not available, a clean plastic bag can be used for burns on the hand.
  • Pain medications can be given to reduce the pain or discomfort.
  • If the eyes or face is burned, the individual should sit up as much as possible to lessen the swelling.

Preventive measures

It is important to note that severe cases of burns and scalds typically affect infants and young children. Some of the measures that can lessen the risk for a child to end up with burns or scalds at home include the following:

  • Make sure that the child is kept out of the kitchen as much as possible
  • Always test the temperature of the bath water by using your elbow before putting the infant or toddler in the water
  • Keep lighters, matches and lit candles out of reach of young children
  • Make sure that hot beverages are kept away from young children

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on burns and scalds is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage these injuries by taking a standard first aid course with Mississauga First Aid.

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