First Aid for Burns

Burns are extremely common, painful and potentially life-changing injuries. Burns frequently become infected and scarring from burns is often disfiguring and permanent.

13,000 burns injuries are treated in British hospitals each year. 200 people die from burns related injuries each year.

The incidence of burns peaks in the four weeks around November the 5th, when around 1,000 people will be injured from fireworks. Of these accidents, nearly 600 are likely to occur at home or private parties and nearly 400 accidents involve children under the age of 13.

First Aid for Burns:

First Aid for Burns - how to reduce pain and scarring

Hold the affected area under cool, running water for a full 20 minutes. Keep the casualty warm and look out for signs of shock. After that, remove any loose clothing and jewellery as soon as possible however NEVER remove anything that has stuck to a burn. If a child is burnt and the area is blistered and larger than a 50p piece, phone for an ambulance immediately. In addition, once the burn has been cooled for at least 20 minutes, cover with cling film or a sterile plastic bag if appropriate. Alternatively keep running it under water until the paramedic arrives.

A health professional should assess all burns

  1. Treatment should ideally use cool running water of 2-15 degrees in Celsius.
  2. Cool burns under running water for a full 20 minutes.
  3. Do not apply ice or icy water to a burn. This can lead to hypothermia.

Research demonstrated that effective treatment of burns (i.e. following the steps given above)  will significantly reduce tissue damage. It will also speed up wound healing and reduce scarring.


  • Touch the burn
  • Remove anything stuck to the burn
  • Use lotions, ointments or creams
  • Use adhesive dressings
  • Break blisters

If clothing is on fire, remember: stop, drop, wrap and roll.

Try to prevent the casualty from panicking or running – as any movement or breeze will fan the flames and make things worse – Stop. Help the casualty drop to the ground and wrap them in a blanket, coat, or rug to smother the flames. Firstly, protect yourself from the fire. After that, roll the casualty along the ground until there are no flames.


Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life


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First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

Emma Hammett
Author: Emma Hammett