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Most burns occur at home or work. It is common for children and adults to get minor burns from hot water, an iron, or touching a hot stove.


Some burns can be serious, and even life threatening with the most severe burns being caused by electricity or chemicals. Hot liquids are the most common cause of burns in children and many ordinary things in a home can cause childhood burns.


There are various types of burns;

  • First-degree burn. This minor burn affects only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). It usually causes redness and pain that can be treated with first aid treatments. The wounds go away in less than a week.
  • Second-degree burn. This burn affect both the epidermis and the second layer of skin (dermis). It causes redness, pain and swelling. A second-degree burn usually looks wet or moist. Blisters may develop and the pain can be severe. These type of burns can cause scarring of the skin.
  • Third-degree burn. These are burns that reach into the fat layer beneath the dermis. The skin may appear stiff and hard like leather. This burn can destroy nerves and cause numbness.
  • Fourth-degree burn. This is the most severe form of burn as it affects structures well beyond the skin, such as muscle and bones. The skin may appear blackened or charred like burnt meat. If the nerves have been severly damaged, no pain will be felt.


When the burn occurs, it is advisable to stop the burning process as soon as possible;

  • Remove the person from the area, depending on the type of burn stop the flames with water or a blanket
  • Remove any item of clothing near the burnt skin, but don’t try to remove anything that is stuck to the burnt skin because this can cause more damage
  • Cool the burn with cool water for 10–30 minutes, e.g. under a running tap. This should be done ideally within 20 minutes of the injury occurring. Do not use ice, iced water or any creams or oily substances, such as butter
  • Gently pat the skin dry and cover it loosely with a nonstick sterile bandage or gauze to protect the skin
  • Otherwise you may cover the burn with cling film
  • Treat the pain from a burn with paracetamol

You should go to hospital in the following situations;

  • All chemical and electrical burns
  • Large or deep burns i.e. any burn bigger than the affected person’s hand
  • Severe burns

Also go to a medical facility straight away if the person with the burn:

  • Has other injuries that need treating or is going into shock
  • Is pregnant
  • Is over 60 years of age
  • Is under five years of age
  • Has a medical condition such as heart, lung or liver disease, or diabetes
  • Has a weakened immune system e.g. HIV or AIDS or cancer


Many ordinary things in a home can cause childhood burns. To prevent burns, follow the following safety tips:

  • Always test the water temperature before giving your child a bath.
  • Do not cook, drink or carry hot beverages or soup while holding a child.
  • Keep hot foods and liquids away from table and counter edges.
  • Do not use tablecloths or plate mats, which young children can easily pull down.
  • When you’re using the stove, use the burners furthest away from the edge and turn the handles of your pots and pans inward.
  • Also avoid leaving food cooking on the stove unattended.
  • Keep hot electrical appliances out of reach of children e.g. clothes irons, flat irons, boiling rings.
  • Don’t carry buckets of hot water around young children.
  • Test food temperature and note that food or liquids warmed in a microwave may heat unevenly.
  • Don’t warm your baby’s bottle in the microwave, as milk heat unevenly and may cause burns to your baby’s mouth.
  • Keep electrical wires out of the way so the children don’t chew on them.
  • Replace damaged or broken electrical wires immediately.
  • Tell your spouse and your child’s caregiver about these safety tips.

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