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Burns in Children: Care Instructions

A burn on the arm


Burns—even minor ones—can be very painful. A minor burn may heal within several days, while a more serious burn may take weeks or even months to heal completely.

You and 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.

When the skin is damaged by a burn, your child has a greater risk of infection. Keep the wound clean and change the bandages regularly to prevent infection and help the burn heal.

Burns can leave permanent scars. Taking good care of the burn as it heals may help prevent bad scars.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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?

  • If your doctor told you how to care for your child's burn, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the burn every day with a mild soap and water. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • Gently pat the burn dry after you wash it.
    • Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly on the burn.
    • You may cover the burn with a non-stick bandage. There are many bandage products available. Be sure to read the product label for correct use.
    • Replace the bandage as needed.
  • Protect the burn while it is healing. Cover the burn if your child is going out in the cold or the sun.
    • Have your child wear long sleeves if the burn is on the hands or arms.
    • Have your child wear a hat if the burn is on the face.
    • Have your child wear socks and shoes if the burn is on the feet.
  • 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.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics, give them to your child as directed. Do not stop giving them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Do not break blisters open. Broken blisters could get infected. If a blister breaks open by itself, blot up the liquid, and leave the skin that covered the blister. This helps protect the new skin.
  • Teach your child to try not to scratch the burn. Talk to your doctor about what to use on the burn for itching.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child's pain gets worse.
  • Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the burn.
    • Red streaks leading from the burn.
    • Pus draining from the burn.
    • A fever.

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

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.