Major Burns in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Picture of a second-degree burn on the arm

Burns injure the skin and can also injure other parts of your child's body, such as muscles, nerves, lungs, and eyes. Burns may also become infected easily. Pain from a burn may get worse in the first few weeks as the burn heals.

The colour, texture, and feel of your child's skin will change as new skin and scar tissue form. Your child may notice that the burned area feels tight and hard while it is healing. It is important to continue to move the area as the burn heals to prevent loss of motion or loss of function in the area.

Complete healing of a burn may take from a few months to up to a year. Recovering from a burn can be a painful and trying process for your child, but there are steps you can take to make sure that the burn heals as well as possible.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for caring for your child's burn. Your child may need special bandages or a compression garment if the burn is very deep.
  • Keep your child's burn clean and dry.
    • Wash the burn every day with a mild soap and water.
    • Gently pat the burn dry after you wash and rinse it.
  • Protect your child's burn while it is healing. Cover the burn if your child is going out in the cold or the sun. Make sure that your child:
    • Wears long sleeves if the burn is on the hands or arms.
    • Wears a hat if the burn is on the face.
    • Wears shoes and socks if the burn is on the feet.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, use them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Do not let your child scratch the burn. Talk to your doctor about what to use on your child's burn for itching.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids. If your child has kidney, heart, or liver disease and has to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids your child drinks.
  • Feed your child a healthy diet. Make sure that your child is eating foods that have enough calories and protein to promote healing. Ask your doctor if your child should take any extra vitamins or other natural health products.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house. Smoking slows healing and delays tissue repair.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the burn.
    • Pus draining from the burn.
    • A fever.
  • Your child cannot move the burned area, or the area feels numb.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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