Burns Injury

Emergency Department, Garrett Anderson Centre Telephone: 01473 702035 or 702036

Paediatric Assessment Unit (PAU) Tel: 01473 702198

Bergholt Ward Tel: 01473 702194

What do I need to do?

Your child has sustained a superficial (red and painful) burn and / or a partial thickness (red, painful and blistered) burn. This gives you advice on how to deal with this.

If the burn is dressed, leave this dressing on for 2-3 days until your child’s next review by a nurse (in the Emergency Department clinic or at your GP practice). This dressing protects the burn against bacteria and further injury. It also provides a good environment for healing and absorbs the wound fluid.


The dressing must not be disturbed and should be kept clean and dry. If you have concerns about the dressing, please return to the Emergency Department or your GP practice.

Superficial burns heal in a week without scarring.

Partial thickness burns heal within 2-3 weeks and can cause a scar.

Fresh scars are always more noticeable than old scars.

You have to protect new skin (and scars) against the sun, by wearing clothes or sunscreen (factor 15 and higher).

You should massage superficial and healed burns with a hypoallergenic, non-alcohol, non-perfumed cream to prevent dryness, pain and itching. If you are concerned about the healing process, please make an appointment for your child to see his or her GP.

If your child has small blisters leave them intact. If the blisters are too big or are in an uncomfortable place, the nurse will drain them.

Your child must maintain movement of the limb and elevate it to prevent swelling and relieve pain. Give regular pain relief medication, such as paracetamol.

Return to the Emergency Department or see your GP if your child has signs of infection, such as:

  • a fever or feeling generally unwell;
  • more redness around the burn or more swelling;
  • an increase in pain (after taking pain relief medication);
  • a change in odour;
  • the dressing becoming wet or if it moves and exposes the wound; or
  • wound fluid seeps through the dressing.

Very rarely the body may react with an extreme response to the entry of bacteria through the burn site (which may or may not look infected).

If toxins are produced by the bacteria they can lead to:

  • high fever;
  • abdominal pain;
  • vomiting and/or diarrhoea;
  • a red rash anywhere on the body which looks like sunburn and may start to peel;
  • confusion;
  • muscle pain;
  • headache or dizziness; and
  • pale and clammy skin.

You must seek urgent medical attention if your child develops any of these symptoms in the hours and days after the burn or scald.