First aid treatment for burns – Cool running water for 20 minutes

First Aid is what you do while you are waiting for help to come – that is why it is called first aid – because it is what you do first and what you do first can be very important. When someone you know sustains a burn injury, there are several steps you should follow:

1. Remove

Quickly remove any clothing and jewellery from the burned area. If the clothes are stuck to the skin, do not remove them and do not pop any blisters. It is important to remove clothing and jewellery because they can trap heat onto the skin and can restrict blood flow to the area if it starts to swell.

2. Cool

Immediately treat the area with cool running water (e.g. from a cold tap) for 20 minutes. During this time, only apply the water to the burned area. Keep the patient warm with a blanket or by holding the child so that only the burned area is under the water and your body heat is keeping the rest of them warm.

3. Cover

Use clingwrap or a clean cloth to cover and protect the burned area. Do not use ice, creams, oil or other substances. They will not help the wound to heal and they may cause infection or more damage. They will also interfere with examination by the doctor.

4. Seek

Seek medical attention for all children’s burns by calling the ambulance or going to hospital. For adults, if the burn is larger than 3 cm diameter, or it is on the face, hands or groin area, or if the burn is white in colour (this means it is deep), seek medical attention.

It is important to cool the burn for 20 minutes to stop damage to the tissue under the skin.

You can apply first aid up to 3 hours after the injury and it will still be effective.