Burns & Scalds Fact Sheet

Almost all of us have burnt our fingers when we have touched something hot, or our mouths when we have eaten food that is too hot. But burns and scalds can be very serious and can put our life at risk. Every year almost one hundred thousand young people and children die from serious burn injuries.

What causes burns?

  • Sunlight
  • Fire and flames
  • Hot objects
  • Chemicals
  • Hot liquids
  • Electricity

A burn is when your skin comes into contact with heat or a flame.

A scald is when your skin comes into contact with hot water or other hot liquids.

Most accidental burns to children are caused by hot liquids and naked flames.

What to do if you are burnt or scalded

  1. If the burn or scald is small cool it down in cold water – use a running tap or a bucket of clean water – and keep the burn cooling for ten minutes or until it stops hurting.
  2. Do not put anything on the burn – no butter, oil, lotions or creams – keep the burn clean and only use water to cool it.
  3. If the burn is large (bigger than the size of the child’s hand) or if a young child has been burnt – raise the alarm and go to the health worker right away. Do not put butter or lotion on the burn but lightly cover it with a clean, wet cloth. A large burn is dangerous – get help from the health worker as fast as you can.

How to avoid getting burnt

  • Don’t play near pots and pans that are cooking, or the fire in the kitchen.
  • Keep younger children safe and away from fires, cooking and keep matches out of reach.
  • Make a plan for what to do if there is a fire in your house or school. What would you use to put the fire out. How would you get out of the house or classroom safely.
  • Never play with fireworks and never hold a lighted firework – these are dangerous and can go off unexpectedly or in your hand.

Be safe with fire

  • Never play with matches, cigarette lighters, candles, fireworks or open fires.
  • Never leave a candle or fire burning when there is nobody in the room.
  • Never play rough games where there are pots cooking, hot drinks or an open fire.

What to do if there is a fire

Fires move quickly, so you have to act FAST:

  • Get out of the building. Never hide in a burning building.
  • Once you are out, never go back inside a burning building.
  • Never stand up where there is fire – crawl out on your hands and knees, keep your mouth covered with something to help stop you breathing in smoke.

Here is a great, child friendly fact sheet on burns. It gives you first aid instruction for burns and shows children how they can prevent burns happening. It has been produced by Child Safe in South African and is designed for children.

Fire and smoke

As well as burns, smoke from cooking fires can make young children ill. Here is a fact sheet about indoor air pollution from the World Health Organization.